Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has absolutely nothing to apologise for
The Premier League weekend ended on a disappointing note as Liverpool and Manchester United played out a dour 0-0 draw at Old Trafford, but did Jose Mourinho deserve the abuse that flowed in his direction for his negative tactics at Anfield?
We look back on a fascinating weekend of tactical battles as the Premier League made a welcome return from its latest international break.
MOURINHO HAS NOTHING TO APOLOGISE FOR
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has been subjected to a barrage of criticism following his side’s negative tactics in their 0-0 draw against Liverpool at Anfield, but why would we criticise a manager for deploying a game plan for suit the moment and to benefit his own team?
Just eight Premier League games into his reign as United manager, Mourinho is very much at the formative stage of his rebuilding a club that has been through a traumatic three years following the retirement of Alex Ferguson, so it is unrealistic to expect him to have finalised his Old Trafford project in double quick time.
Okay, so he spent a fortune to sign the likes of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic last summer, but the idea that this still special manager could transform a pretty shambolic United set-up into a title winning machine in the space of two short months is naive on a grand scale.
So even if there were howls of derision as Mourinho set out his United team to nullify the Liverpool threat in the most eagerly anticipated game of the season on Monday night, students of the game would justifiably argue that Liverpool’s failure to overcome their opponent’s strategy was, in fact, the biggest crime committed on a disappointing evening at Anfield.
There were those claiming Mourinho’s tactics were ‘not the Man Utd way’, but Alex Ferguson carried out many a mission to grind teams into submission in the hope of hitting them with a sucker punch.
We were all bored by the stalemate that ensued as Liverpool’s enduring inability to break down packed defences was exposed once again, yet Mourinho was merely doing what was best for his team and he should be judged on his achievements next May and not right now.
“This is a point that stopped them winning three,” he reflected. “Other candidates for the title have easier fixtures at moment and it is important to keep close to them. Our opportunity to get five wins in a row will come.”
Man Utd had only 6 touches in Liverpool's penalty area tonight (Felliani 3, Ibrahimovic 2, Pogba 1) pic.twitter.com/ho2jhiNWxb— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) October 17, 2016
Mourinho may not win the title in his first season at United, but history confirms he tends to pull off that kind of success sooner rather than later. What we are witnessing now is his vision of how to reach the promised land once again.
FAIRY TALE TURNS INTO A NIGHTMARE
The odds on Claudio Ranieri losing his job at Leicester are already tumbling, just a few months after the Italian led his team to the most remarkable Premier League title triumph of this or any other lifetime.
Last Saturday’s thumping 3-0 defeat at Chelsea was the latest setback for a manager and a team struggling to live up to their billing as Premier League champions, with keeper Kasper Schmeichel confirming clear the air talks were held among his team to try and resolve their difficulties.
Of course, any suggestion that Ranieri will be under threat at any point this season is ridiculous, unless Leicester find themselves dragged into the relegation zone and that is a realistic prospect as they are currently just two points outside the drop zone.
In a football business that has no time for sentiment any more, Ranieri is as expendable as the next manager, no matter what he achieved in 2016.
ALL HAIL HARRY THE ARTIST
Harry Arter turned in another virtuoso performance in Bournemouth’s 6-1 rout of Hull on Saturday - and it can only be hoped that Republic of Ireland noticed his latest master class.
Arter’s manager Eddie Howe wasted little time in promoting Arter’s claims to be in the next Ireland team that takes to the field for the World Cup qualifier against Austria next month, yet the suspicion remains that the midfielder who may yet be courted by England’s national team will have options on the table unless the promotion he wants to the line-up is forthcoming.
Ireland cannot afford to let a player of Arter’s quality slip through their net and for that reason, all Irish soccer fans should hope he is handed his first competitive start in Vienna next month.
IRELAND'S EXILES BECOMING OUTSIDERS
Shane Long’s status as an unused substitute in Southampton’s 3-1 win against Burnley on Sunday confirmed that he is no-longer considered to a first choice pick in the Premier League for boss Claude Puel.
While the Irishman is likely to play a part in Southampton’s high profile Europa League game against Inter Milan at the San Siro on Thursday night, his status as a second pick is an ongoing concern for Ireland boss Martin O’Neill as he attempts to plot a viable route to the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.
Charlie Austin is on I really like this striker I always said it he should be upfront ahead of Shane Long pic.twitter.com/UGY6rOHjy1— Ish Hussein (@3husseinIsmael) October 17, 2016
Ireland’s lack of firepower in the post Robbie Keane era is an enduring issue O’Neill is powerless to solve, with Jonathan Walters’ status as a bench warmer at Stoke doing little to ease the problem.
INDEPENDENT.IE TEAM OF THE WEEK
Maarten Stekelenburg (Everton)
Eric Bailly (Man Utd)
Ashley Williams (Everton)
Antonio Valencia (Man Utd)
N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Joe Allen (Stoke)
Harry Arter (Bournemouth)
Ander Herrera (Man Utd)
Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
Dele Alli (Tottenham)
Diego Costa (Chelsea)