Diogo Dalot goes to sleep thinking of Champions League qualification, such is the 19-year-old’s determination to ensure his dream move to Manchester United to play under “one of the best coaches ever” does not turn into a nightmare in his first season.
Jose Mourinho’s men have endured a troubled start to the campaign, with the team languishing in eighth place and eight points off the top four after Wednesday’s action-packed 2-2 draw against Arsenal at Old Trafford.
While there were signs of promise for the much-changed hosts, the result represented a fourth straight winless Premier League match for under-performing United.
It also ratcheted up the pressure ahead of struggling Fulham’s visit this weekend, a match Dalot, fresh from making his first league start, is determined to win to kick-start their top-four hopes.
“Fulham is a big game,” the summer signing from Porto said. “I think in the Premier League it’s always a big game – that’s one of the things I have noticed here.
“There’s no weak games, there’s no chance to relax and most of all for us because we need to get points and to climb up the table. That’s what we want.
“We sleep thinking about (getting into the top four) and we wake up thinking about that and for sure we will get there.
“I think it is our main goal for now to get into the top four and we are going to fight for that and I think are will get there.”
Dalot spoke with a confidence and composure that belied his tender years after a frantic first 90 minutes of Premier League action.
The 19-year-old always felt prepared for his chance in the “best league in the world”, with his time on the sidelines and training under Mourinho aiding his adaptation.
“I have been following the Premier League since I can remember, since I first watched football, and to be able to see from the stands for a while and then get on to the pitch, it has all been good experience for me,” Dalot said.
“I need to adapt considering the team I’m now playing in, the coach and the league I am playing in.
“But I think my game can adapt and (I can) get my game together here and settle down. With the help of my team-mates, the coach and the fans I think I will be improving a lot here.
“Jose Mourinho brings all his experience and knowledge of the game to us all, not just me.
“I think he is one of the best coaches ever and for me it is a dream come true to be alongside him and to learn from him. For me, it is very good.”
Dalot’s quick adaptation to life in Manchester has no doubt been aided by his near-flawless English.
“I needed to be ready to come here and to settle here,” the Portuguese said. “So, for me, it was good to learn the language well and quickly. I am still learning, it is not perfect.
“I learnt and consumed English in school and I watched TV and movies to give myself an idea.”
Like Dalot, experienced centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos is looking to make an impact during his first season in the Premier League.
Brought to Unai Emery’s new-look Arsenal in the summer, the 30-year-old was frustrated after failing to add to their north London derby win with another victory. “It was a difficult game,” Papastathopoulos said. “We fought a lot.
“We were unlucky because we started to play good in the first half, but we had two injured (players, Rob Holding and Aaron Ramsey) and we had to change so it was not easy for us.
“But I am happy we fight, we play good and we look forward.
“Every time mistakes happen, but it is good we stayed together and fought together. Mistakes can happen.
“Our focus is to get into the first four. We have confidence and we have to win the next matches.”
Forward Xherdan Shaqiri believes Liverpool have to continue to be brave in their approach if they are to maintain the pressure on Manchester City.
Jurgen Klopp’s side responded to going behind at Burnley by scoring twice in seven second-half minutes as they eventually won 3-1 on a testing night at Turf Moor.
It gave Liverpool their best ever start to a league season after 15 games, with 39 points accumulated.
Klopp knew they had to win against a struggling team who had not tasted victory since September and, at 1-1, sent on Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, with one tweak seeing midfielder James Milner drop in to replace substituted left-back Alberto Moreno.
It allowed the visitors to maintain their pressure and Burnley cracked again soon after.
Shaqiri believes they have to retain that mindset in every game.
“We have to be brave in these games. We know we are going to have a lot of possession, but obviously we have to defend well,” said the Switzerland international.
“At half-time he (Klopp) just said we have to be more in the game, more lively in the game, and to win the ball more because a lot times we played not forward but back.
“They scored – I don’t know if it was a foul (on the goalkeeper) or not, but they decided to give the goal.
“We stayed calm and tried to manage the game and stay in the game and in the end we deserved to win.
“We weren’t exactly perfect on the ball, but in the second half we did better and we managed the game very well and then we scored three goals.
“It was most important to take three points from here, which we know is not simple, so in the end we are happy.”
Klopp made seven changes, resting Salah and Firmino, but the gamble ultimately paid off as the Reds boss seeks to manage his squad for 10 matches in five weeks.
Midfielder Naby Keita made his first start since mid-September and finally showed why Liverpool paid £53million and were willing to wait a year for his delayed arrival from RB Leipzig with a commanding performance in the final third after the break.
Considering another summer signing Fabinho, who cost £43m, was on the bench after arguably his best game for the club in Sunday’s Merseyside derby, Klopp’s options in the centre look strong.
“Definitely,” added Shaqiri.
“It was a very important game, the coach said that to us, and it gave a lot of players confidence to play this game and we managed it well.
“Obviously it is not simple for the other players who did not play for a long time so in the first half they needed time to come into the game, but after that we managed it well and you can see we have a very strong team where everyone can play.”
Marcos Alonso has urged Chelsea to forget about the growing gap to Manchester City, with the Blues’ title hopes hanging by a thread.
Wednesday’s shock 2-1 defeat at Wolves left Maurizio Sarri’s side 10 points behind the Premier League leaders ahead of Saturday’s Stamford Bridge showdown with Pep Guardiola’s side.
Lose that and the Blues, who now sit fourth, will trail City by 13 points but Alonso is eager to ignore the table.
The defender said: “It’s too early to talk about it, obviously.
“If we lose we are going to be 13 points from the top and that’s a lot of points but we have to think, prepare for the game well and not pay attention to the table at the moment.
“It’s the perfect opportunity to come back. It will be a great game for sure, everyone will be very motivated to play.
“We are very disappointed after the defeat but it’s back to work and we will work harder and start playing better as a team.”
Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota scored in four second-half minutes at Molineux to cancel out Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s deflected opener.
It was Chelsea’s second straight away league defeat after a 3-1 loss at Tottenham last month ended their unbeaten start.
“We have to play more as a team. It’s something we have to analyse, we will try our best to improve as soon as possible,” added Spain international Alonso.
“We’re not doing very well at the moment. More individually (than) as a team, we have to get better as a collective.
“We had the chances to win, we were controlling the game and started the second half having a couple of chances.
“The last few games we were not loyal to our style of play and, even if we didn’t deserve it, we lose.
“We are going through a hard moment and you have to work very hard, stay together and get back to winning as soon as possible.”
Victory lifted Wolves up to 12th ahead of Sunday’s trip to Newcastle and boss Nuno Espirito Santo praised the impact of Morgan Gibbs-White after the midfielder’s full Premier League debut.
“He is getting in the game and bringing energy, staying focused and humble,” he said.
“He has a lot to improve and a lot to give to us and us to him. Together we are going to try to build something.
“He is one of the best generations of English players for a long time.”