He’s long been linked with a move to Liverpool, but perhaps the Anfield side’s interest in Timo Werner will cool ever so slightly following news that the RB Leipzig striker would prefer to wear a slightly different shade of red – Manchester United red to be precise.
Werner, who has scored 37 goals in 65 appearances for the Bundesliga outfit, admits he has a soft spot for Liverpool but insisted that the Red Devils would be his ideal destination if and when he does finally decide to experience life in the Premier League in the future.
“Yes, playing in the Premier League is a dream for me,” Werner, 21, said in the April edition of FourFourTwo magazine.
“I would like to play for two or three clubs, and Manchester United are one of those clubs. But probably not in the next few years – later, when my English is a little bit better. I’m very comfortable at RB Leipzig, though.”
Germany international Werner has been linked with a move to Merseyside several times in recent seasons and while he would struggle to break into the Reds’ current attacking triumvirate, Jurgen Klopp is said to be a big fan.
Capable of playing in a front three or a front two, Werner would be a welcome addition to most Premier League squads, but compatriot Klopp’s interest may have cooled ever so slightly.
Werner said he grew up watching both clubs and asked who he would prefer to join, he said United.
He said: “Manchester United and Liverpool were the teams I watched quite a lot in England. They were the two that I’m a little bit a fan of, because they have so much history. When Alex Ferguson was the coach, United won everything and were outstanding.
“In Liverpool it’s also their stadium and the atmosphere. But when I have to decide, I’m more Manchester United than Liverpool. I’m now at a point where at some stage in the future I’d like to play in a team that wins titles.”
From Jesse Lingard’s fine header in the 2-1 triumph against Chelsea to Nemanja Matic’s stupendous sliced half-volley during the latest remarkable 3-2 victory at Crystal Palace, the Red Devils have valiantly scrapped to avert crises in consecutive run-outs.
The sight of Belgium centre forward Romelu Lukaku roaring in unalloyed celebration and pounding the turf following both winners borne of high drama typify the attitude imbued within a squad now shaped by the ceaseless Special One.
After several seasons detailed by meek surrenders under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson wilderness, the change is a welcome one.
A comparison to the feckless performances put in by disintegrating Arsenal during this period details the different trajectories these – once bitter – rivals are on.
But beyond these memorable moments, a pressing issue remains. Especially with rampant Liverpool up next at Old Trafford for Saturday’s scrap for second place in the Premier League.
If United are to hold any realistic pretensions of keeping pace with champions-elect Manchester City next term, an attacking identity to match this warrior ethos must be found.
The other side of the coin when comebacks are required is: why were you in this losing position in the first place?
Both matches have followed a similar script. Losing starts caused by disjointed first halves have been salvaged by impressive retorts after the break.
For a team of United’s collective talent, assembled at a cost only dwarfed by their City neighbours, this should not be occurring with frequency.
We are approaching the two-year mark since Mourinho’s appointment. Yet it is impossible to pin down a style of play.
This is not an issue for Pep Guardiola’s Blue machine.
A revolutionary utilisation of two central playmakers, unyielding belief in ball rotation and burning desire to press for the ball high up the pitch has crafted a side on course to break numerous records: 2016/17 Chelsea’s 30 wins in a Premier League season, 2004/05 Chelsea’s record 95 points, 2009/10 Chelsea’s 103 goals, 1999/2000 United’s 18-point winning margin and 2004/05 Chelsea’s 15 away wins.
An imposing standard has been set. It is now up to Mourinho to cure the attacking ails which still bedevil his side.
Since the heady days of the autumn when United kept up with City’s points and goals tally, they’ve steadily turned into a trying watch.
These faults were glaring at Selhurst Park.
Superstar January addition Alexis Sanchez was dispossessed eight times as he moved into the clustered centre, or dropped deep from the left-wing position detailed on the team sheet’s 4-3-3 formation.
This movement restricted the space of Paul Pogba, with the pair regularly stumbling into the same space. In a repeat of the Chelsea win, the France centre midfielder’s performance mirrored his team’s – awful in the first half, better in the second.
His freedom has been stifled by both Sanchez’s arrival and the Chile forward’s current deployment. No assist has been registered by him in the top flight since January 15’s 3-0 rout of sorry Stoke.
United’s struggles to escape second gear were typified by the presence of secondary defensive midfielder Scott McTominay. A 91.3-per-cent pass accuracy is impressive on paper, but his lack of adventure with the ball increased the log jam.
Only when the adventurous Marcus Rashford was thrown on at half-time to provide required width did an upturn arrive. In the Premier League, the England youngster had not played since February 2 and not started since December 30 – with four successful dribbles in 45 minutes in south London, this situation must change for the good of the team.
Mourinho is renowned for diligently drilling his defence and applying a laissez-faire approach to his attack.
Since Sanchez’s recruitment in late January, several different line-ups have been selected. Chemistry has proved elusive.
For all the glory of Chelsea and Palace, misery at Tottenham and Newcastle should not be forgotten.
Alexis Sanchez is struggling to settle in at Manchester United, with his display against Crystal Palace on Monday night the latest in a collection of underwhelming performances since his January move from Arsenal.
Such difficulties can always happen with winter signings. Regardless of Sanchez’s Premier League experience, it takes time to settle into a new system, get used to new teammates, and establish an understanding with a new manager.
Yet there’s no doubt that the Chilean’s form is becoming a cause for concern. On Monday, he had only three touches in the Palace box, as he constantly dropped deep in an attempt to influence the game – a habit that is a cause for his struggles, and United’s.
Club legend and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville said it best after Monday’s game: “Alexis was poor tonight, there’s no doubt about that. He was trying to play one-twos from 40 yards from goal. He is no good from there.
“For me, I see Alexis Sanchez as being at his best in the left channel, attacking defenders, committing them, playing one-two combination. He has to try and get in those positions for Manchester United.”
As Neville points out, Sanchez’s most effective position is indeed on the left wing, but that is a position where Marcus Rashford and especially Anthony Martial thrive – United visibly improved against Palace once Rashford was brought on at halftime to play on that flank.
Neither one is as good as Sanchez in the position, but their effectiveness – and again, especially Martial’s – drops when they’re played on the right to accommodate the new recruit, whereas Sanchez is still a capable player on the right or even through the middle.
But while Jose Mourinho sorts out this positional headache, Sanchez has taken it upon himself to try to prove himself – thus leading to his propensity to drop deep as he tries to maximise his influence.
It hasn’t worked. Sanchez has two assists and one goal in eight United appearances across all competitions.
His key passes metric has dropped from three per 90 minutes in the league for Arsenal to 1.4 for his new team. Most tellingly, he is losing the ball far too often: 34 times on Monday, and 36 times in two separate recent fixtures, against Newcastle and Huddersfield. No other United player has lost possession so many times in a single game this season.
His dropping deep also reduces the impact Paul Pogba is able to have, as Sanchez ends up demanding the ball in positions Pogba would normally take up. Working out the kinks in the on-field relationship between those two is another challenge on Mourinho’s hands.
I'm going to defend Sanchez, Some of our fans expected him to hit the ground running, Don't jump on his back too quick, He only joined us under 2 months ago, Give him time— Matthew (@Carrick4united) March 6, 2018
Sanchez’s versatility affords Mourinho plenty of options. He can push Sanchez further forward, as a nominal No10 but playing just off central striker Romelu Lukaku (and dropping deep as little as possible).
Keep him on the right flank and trust Martial and Rashford to maintain their standards on the left. Play him on the left and pick Juan Mata over Martial and Rashford on the right – the Spaniard is United’s best player on that flank, and his introduction on Monday was another key factor in the Red Devils’ comeback.
Mourinho could even try Sanchez as a central striker to give Lukaku some rest – some of Sanchez’s best displays for Arsenal came playing effectively as a false 9.
With Saturday’s north-west derby against Liverpool and next week’s crucial Champions League second-leg fixture against Sevilla coming up, the manager needs to quickly figure out how to get the best from his new signing.