Ander Herrera defends Manchester United teammate David de Gea after World Cup criticism

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Ander Herrera has backed David de Gea to bounce back from World Cup woe.

Ander Herrera has defended Manchester United teammate and fellow Spaniard David de Gea by saying the goalkeeper was only criticised for his World Cup performance because of the world-class status he had earned.

“I don’t care what the critics say,” Herrera said. “He is the best goalkeeper in the world, by far, and he will show it again.

“When you are the best goalkeeper in the world and you don’t make those amazing saves, everyone is going to talk.

“When I don’t play very well, I don’t get that criticism because I am not one of the best in the world, but he is, so it’s normal and he will cope with it.

“He is so strong. I remember when I was in Spain and he signed for the club [in 2011], the first couple of months were hard for him and he became the best goalkeeper in the world in the next four years, so I am very relaxed about him.

“We are very lucky to have him.”

De Gea was criticised after spilling a Cristiano Ronaldo shot during Spain’s 3-3 draw with Portugal during La Roja’s opening World Cup game. That error came after a similar one during a warm-up game against Switzerland.

Herrera has backed United fans to help De Gea recover after his World Cup nightmare.

“They are very loyal. They have already shown that to him and he knows he’s going to get them back.

“We are very relaxed because he is going to show again that he is the best in the world and he will give us again eight or 10 points this season.

“I remember that difficult summer [2015] when everyone was talking about Real Madrid and he played the first game at Old Trafford and everyone was singing his name and he told me: ‘This is amazing, they are the best.'”

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Sanchez features for Man United as Red Devils are held by San Jose Earthquakes

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Back in the line-up: Alexis Sanchez acknowledges the United fans.

“One more training session” was Jose Mourinho’s verdict on Manchester United‘s 0-0 draw against San Jose Earthquakes.

The Reds boss appeared completely unperturbed by United’s second consecutive draw on its US friendly tour, conceding: “We are not a team.”

With many of his best players missing the trip after World Cup commitments, the Portuguese appeared content that the squad – this time with Alexis Sanchez included – were able to get some practice in, if nothing else.

“We are not a team. We’re a group of players from different teams,” he told MUTV after the game.

“Some are first-team, some under-23s, some coming from loans and going on loan, some are younger, under-18s. We don’t have a team to play much better than we did but (it’s) one more training session.”

After missing the start of the pre-season tour due to a visa issue, Sanchez started for the Reds at the California Memorial Stadium on Sunday.

SANTA CLARA, CA - JULY 22: Danny Hoesen #9 of the San Jose Earthquakes battles for control of the ball with Eric Bailly #3 of Manchester United during the first half of their exhibition soccer game at Levi's Stadium on July 22, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Eric Bailly was one of those who got another pre-season run-out.

The Chilean made an attempt off a free kick in the 30th minute, but it sailed off high to the left.

Sanchez had a hand in another close miss by Luke Shaw after the break, but United could not break the deadlock.

“Good for Alexis,” Mourinho said: “He needed this and he made a good effort, a good physical effort, which is important for him in this moment.”

Andreas Pereira performed “okay” and the boss thought he could play “even more simply”.

“But he has the personality to want the ball and to organise. I’m happy,” he added.

A potentially worrisome moment for Mourinho came after seven minutes of play when Antonio Valencia limped off injured.

But again, the manager remained sanguine: “He’s injured and I think we need to get used to it,” he said.

“Last season he was already in this type of situation and this season he will probably have more of that.”

United next play Real Madrid on Wednesday at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

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Alexis Sanchez conundrum and other questions for Jose Mourinho on Man United's US tour

Matt Jones 22/07/2018
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Manchester United’s 2018/19 Premier League plans began in earnest in the sweltering heat of Phoenix on Thursday as the Red Devils drew their opening pre-season fixture with Club America 1-1.

A 24-man squad jetted out from Manchester but the plane was crammed with more names unfamiliar to fans than senior stars, with many of United’s World Cup contingent now resting after their busy summers in Russia.

With Alexis Sanchez also left behind temporarily due to visa issues, it was a very youthful and bit-part squad that laboured to a late draw at the University of Phoenix Stadium – where Juan Mata’s 78th minute goal secured an unbeaten start.

With the likes of Romelu Lukaku, David De Gea and Marcus Rashford yet to join the squad, the early part of the tour will give the seven youth team players on the trip a chance to step up and impress the manager.

Meanwhile, the likes of Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial must try and force their way into the starting XI for the first game of the season against Leicester City in a little under three weeks.

As pre-season begins, here are five questions Jose Mourinho may be pondering.

How much of a setback will the World Cup prove to be?

0706 Lukaku Focus

Everyone loves a World Cup summer – the long months seem empty without a major tournament and only the incessant transfer rumour mill to occupy football fans’ minds.

Everyone except club managers that is. Now that the resplendent football from Russia is over, it’s time to focus on the start of the various European domestic seasons which get under way in a matter of weeks.

With that in mind, Mourinho must look back ruefully on the World Cup, especially with so many of his stars getting to the latter stages and, subsequently, deserving of an extended break.

The United boss flew to the United States without a glut of his biggest names – Paul Pogba, Lukaku, Marouane Fellaini, Jesse Lingard, Rashford, Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Marcos Rojo, De Gea, Nemanja Matic, Victor Lindelof and Fred all given three weeks off.

De Gea, Matic and Jones are expected to join up with the squad before Wednesday’s third game against AC Milan.

Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian, Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Andreas Pereira, Scott McTominay, Mata and Anthony Martial are just nine names who can be considered senior players. Thirteen of the 24-man squad currently in the States, meanwhile, are aged 16-22.

It’s not quite the crisis some make it out to be, with other big teams and managers in similar positions. But it’s far from ideal as United hope to hit the ground running.

Can Mourinho get the best out of Alexis Sanchez?

Alexis Sanchez of Manchester United reacts

It’s perhaps unfair to label Sanchez’s first six months at United a complete disaster, but the South American only sparkled sporadically after switching clubs with Henrikh Mkhitaryan in January.

Signing Sanchez was deemed a major coup for Mourinho and United, especially as the Chilean didn’t cost a penny, with a straight swap deal done between the clubs.

The Armenian architect badly needed to step off the Old Trafford stage, seemingly unable to deal with the intense glare of the spotlight. But Sanchez was expected to bask in the glow. It hasn’t quite worked out like that.

Sanchez netted just twice and set up three goals in 12 Premier League games following his Old Trafford arrival. Mkhitaryan, meanwhile, scored as many goals and grabbed one more assist having appeared in one less game and playing 251 less minutes.

There was the odd flash of brilliance from Sanchez – the leap and direction of his header for the equalising goal in the 2-1 FA Cup semi-final triumph over Spurs was special.

Yet, for the most part, he struggled badly to justify earning a reportedly Premier League record £350,000 a week.

This summer is his first one without any significant international football for five years though and his first without any appearances for Chile at all since 2010.

With plenty of stars sitting out the early weeks of pre-season and perhaps not even likely to be fit for the Premier League kick-off, it’s both plausible and imperative that Sanchez starts earning that significant salary of his.

Can any youngsters show him something?

0807 Fosu-Mensah

Timothy Fosu-Mensah.

If you’re a fan or an avid follower of United’s academy and youth teams, you’re sure to be excited by the contingent of fresh faces on this summer’s tour.

There may be trepidation about the new Premier League season with a host of senior stars enjoying an extended rest after their World Cup exploits and expected to miss the early weeks of the 2018/19 campaign – but get beyond that and there’s going to be a chance to see some next generational talents on this trip.

Of the 24 players that flew out to the States earlier this week, only 13 are what you would call senior, with seven youth team players making Mourinho’s squad. Eight are still in their teens, with striker Mason Greenwood the youngest, at just 16, and Angel Gomes and James Garner just 17.

Reds fans Stateside got their first glimpse of one of the academy’s brightest stars in Phoenix on Thursday when frizzy-haired forward Tahith Chong replaced Martial on the hour.

Bright futures are being predicted for Gomes, a cousin of former United winger Nani, as well as left-back Demetri Mitchell and Chong.

But this trip is a real chance for those with some first-team experience under their belts already to stake a claim for regular football this season – namely versatile defenders Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who impressed on loan at Crystal Palace last term, and Axel Tuanzebe.

Can Martial be the main man?

Martial of Manchester United

Speaking of Martial, United fans who bravely emerged from their bedsheets to watch United’s first forays into the new term would have been rewarded by an impressive display from the 22-year-old.

He came close to opening the scoring on a couple of occasions, firing just over after a neat United move and then cutting inside and seeing a low shot deflected just wide.

The flamboyant Frenchman oozes flair. The problem is he too often frustrates, so it was good to see him hit the ground running against Club America, especially as he will be United’s lone senior striker in the early throes of pre-season and indeed probably when the Premier League kicks off.

In stifling 40C heat and with plenty of rust needing to be shaken off in America, Martial showed sharpness beyond what was probably expected as he roamed around with intent and purpose – perhaps keenly aware that in the absence of Lukaku and Sanchez he has an opportunity to stake an early claim to establish himself in the starting XI for the beginning of the season.

After a stuttering third campaign in red, in which he scored only 11 goals in 45 games in all competitions, he is in desperate need of a positive start to 2018/19.

Could Tahith Chong be something special?

Tahith Chong

There is a tendency for football fans to go a bit gaga over emerging young talents – Federico Macheda anyone?

But while serious United fans will be able to decipher between impressive debut and labeling Chong the new Cristiano Ronaldo, there was lots to admire about the Dutch teenager’s first runout in red.

The 18-year-old wideman, snapped up from Feyenoord two summers ago, looked completely at ease on the big stage, showing some intricate touches and impressive vision.

He was praised by Mourinho for his performance although the manager was nevertheless keen to temper expectations. He said Chong is technically and tactically at home in the first-team environment but lacking physically, even though he showed good strength and determination to chase back and win a few tackles.

Mourinho’s handling of Chong is understandable, especially considering the player only returned to action at the start of 2018 following 10 months on the sidelines with a cruciate knee injury.

Former United player Clayton Blackmore felt Angel Di Maria looked the closest thing to the next Ryan Giggs during his brief spell at United.

And Blackmore, who has been a youth team coach at Old Trafford since retiring and was instrumental in bringing Chong to Manchester, believes the teen could genuinely be the next Giggs. High praise indeed.

Chong was brave and bold on debut and though he has work to do, particularly physically, he looks like he might well be the real deal.

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