Latest chapter of Jose Mourinho v Rafael Benitez rivalry and other Man United talking points

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Rafael Benitez (l) and Jose Mourinho (r).

Manchester United’s Premier League campaign continues on Sunday (18:15 UAE) with the trip to Newcastle United.

An enduring storyline between the opposing managers is at play, despite the current disparity in position between their sides. The fixture should also be illustrative of left-back Luke Shaw’s standing at the club, plus a sombre tone will be provided by the death this week of ex-Red Devils midfielder Liam Miller.

Here, we examine the major talking points:

LATEST ROUND OF BENITEZ V MOURINHO

There is certainly no love lost between both clubs – and their respective managers.

Newcastle v Man United was one of the defining fixtures of the 1990s, Sir Alex Ferguson’s legendary mastery of mind games famously producing opposite number Kevin Keegan’s famous “I will love it” rant during the epic 1995/96 title implosion by the Magpies.

The stakes are nowhere near as high on the pitch this time; Newcastle are one place outside the relegation zone and their opponents seem set for a relatively easy cruise into second place behind runaway leaders Manchester City. But the rancour in the dugout survives.

Rafael Benitez and Jose Mourinho endured bitter battles in the previous decade when Liverpool and Chelsea repeatedly clashed. An innocent joke by Mrs Benitez in 2015 about her husband yet again tidying up “his messes”, this time at Real Madrid, then led to callous jibes about the Spaniard’s diet.

A sizable disparity between the sides is hard to dispute, even though United roared back from a goal down to win 4-1 in November. Studying interactions between the bosses could be the major source of intrigue at St James’ Park.

LUKE HAS TO BE SHAW ABOUT HIS FUTURE

Luke Shaw appears to be back on the ascent in his rollercoaster United career.

Mourinho stated he would be “a United player for years” in his pre-match press conference, some turnaround for a 22-year-old whose attitude and approach has been disparaged so many times under his stewardship.

The left-back has started seven of United’s last nine games and performed well upon his return to the XI for last Saturday’s 2-0 win against Huddersfield, Ashley Young paying the price for being one of several poor performers in defeat at Tottenham.

But the £30 million (Dh189m) signing from Southampton in 2014 has been here before. On January 19, Mourinho said: “I don’t see many left-backs better than Luke Shaw” – then promptly dropped him for the 1-0 win at Burnley.

A show of faith for a historically tricky away day will continue Shaw’s rehabilitation. It could even put him on the path to being a starter for England at World Cup 2018.

But what will a demotion to the bench do to his ego? It should set alarm bells ringing about the ultimate futility of his position under the ‘Special One’.

Luke Shaw (r) competes with Huddersfield's Tommy Smith.

Luke Shaw (r) competes with Huddersfield’s Tommy Smith.

FOOTBALL FAMILY IS SET TO REMEMBER MILLER

Manchester United are set to don black armbands this afternoon in remembrance of Liam Miller, who passed away on Friday aged just 36 from pancreatic cancer.

Legendary figures from Wayne Rooney to Ferguson have all paid tribute to the ex-Republic of Ireland midfielder in the aftermath. No team-mates or senior members of coaching staff are left from Miller’s – ultimately unfulfilled – spell at Old Trafford from 2004-06, but this will not prevent his memory being respected.

Once a player is part of any club, they remain so forever. It will not matter that the nascent talent exhibited at Celtic only translated into two goals in 22 matches.

Liam Miller joined United from Celtic in 2004.

Liam Miller joined United from Celtic in 2004.

Football is often criticised by outsiders for its rampant tribalism. Often rightly so.

Yet you can guarantee that Newcastle fans will stand in unison, despite Miller scoring three times in 60 appearances for bitter rivals Sunderland from 2006-09.

Most popular

Related Sections

More to Liverpool than just Mohamed Salah, says Southampton boss Mauricio Pellegrino

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Mauricio Pellegrino knows Southampton will have to produce a “perfect” display to get the better of Liverpool at St Mary’s Stadium.

And while he’s vary of the threat Mohamed Salah poses, he’s warned his team not to become fixated on stopping just Liverpool’s leading scorer who has 21 goals so far this campaign.

“He is a top-class player, but one player alone can do nothing when you don’t have a context, the connection and co-ordination with your team-mates,” the Southampton manager said.

“Salah is an important player, but so is their striker, their midfielder and defenders.

“Liverpool are a really good team and have a lot of capacity to create problems.”

Pellegrino spent a short spell with Liverpool under Rafael Benitez towards the end of his playing career, and also later worked there with the Spaniard as a first-team coach.

Having seen the Saints well beaten 3-0 on his Anfield return earlier in the season, the Argentinian coach is hoping for a better show this time around.

“For sure it is special for me to be in Southampton and playing against this team, of the biggest clubs, not only in the Premier League, but in the world,” he said.

“Now, though, I am representing Southampton and will try to do our best, to try to compete much better than we did away (against Liverpool).”

Pellegrino added: “To play one game well like the other day (at West Brom), that is important, but more so to be consistent in every single game.

“We always have to improve in some respects. When you don’t play well, it is about the small things, being more consistent, especially in our mentality.”

Most popular

Related Tags

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is invisible man as Arsenal flop versus Tottenham in derby

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang against Tottenham.

Harry Kane was the hero yet again for Tottenham as his second-half header earned a 1-0 win against sorry north London rivals Arsenal.

The margin of victory should have been greater, three other excellent chances being wasted by the England forward.

In contrast, the Gunners did not have a shot from inside the box until substitute Alexandre Lacazette appallingly ballooned a volley well over deep into second-half injury time.

Here, we analyse the performance of the new Arsenal

STATISTICS 

Goals – 0

Assists – 0

Shots – 0

Shots on target – 0

Touches – 23

Passes – 18

Key passes – 0

Dribbles – 0

Dispossessed – 0

30-SECOND REPORT

From the ecstasy of his scoring debut against willing Everton, Aubameyang came crashing down to earth.

The £56 million (Dh284.5m) buy from Borussia Dortmund’s only sniff of a goal came in the 13th minute when a marginal offside call from England midfielder Jack Wilshere’s cute pass denied him a one-on-one opportunity.

Was left frustrated when Switzerland centre midfielder Granit Xhaka over-hit a pass to him in the second half, and also put in an absurdly-bad cross in injury-time when redeployed to the left flank.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

GOT RIGHT

WAITING TO POUNCE – Arsenal’s game plan revolved around getting men back in numbers and then springing on the counter-attack.

In the early running, they appeared poised to cause Spurs problem. Aubameyang loitered on the shoulder of the last man and stayed alert to each opportunity.

It was not his fault that wretched ex-BVB team-mate Henrikh Mkhitaryan completed zero key passes and was hooked after 64 minutes, while Germany playmaker Mesut Ozil’s return of two key passes was half that of Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen.

GOT WRONG

CAN A LEOPARD CHANGE ITS SPOTS? – Arsenal knew what they were getting when they invested in the Gabon striker.

He is a man who will flit in and out of matches, bursting into life when a presentable chance comes his way. But is this contribution enough for Arsenal?

The structure of the team does not appear sound enough to carry such a luxury player. At their top-six rivals, Sergio Aguero, Romelu Lukaku, Harry Kane, Alvaro Morata and Roberto Firmino all, to varying degrees, provide far more than mere goals.

KEY MOMENTS

13th min CHANCE: Wilshere looks up and springs Aubameyang, who is denied a clear chance by the assistant referee’s flag.

60th CHANCE WASTED: Xhaka lacks the ability to play Aubameyang through, despite his excellent run.

92nd CHANCE WASTED: Moved out to the left flank to accommodate replacement Lacazette, a position he’s not played in years. An embarrassing cross which fired out of play shows why he should stay central.

VERDICT

Nothing new was learned about Aubameyang, as a player.

Famously, he only had 19 touches in his soporific last run-out for Dortmund. But this is a club he scored 141 times for in 213 games, and his ability to unsettle on the counter was also visible at Wembley for new employers.

The key takeaway is how manager Arsene Wenger reacts to seeing his new front line fail to make the most of moments of transition while further weakening a suspect defence. Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan and Ozil contributed two tackles between them; Dele Alli, Eriksen and Kane provided six.

RATING: 5/10

All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com

Most popular

Related Tags