With the Manchester Derby looming, Jose Mourinho will be anxious for a big over the Swans – both to gather momentum, and dispel the gloom of recent months.
With the international break over, it’s right back to the grind for the Manchester United players in the game against the Swans today. And it has quite literally been so for some of the, at least what with Jose Mourinho now episodic shifts between villain and marshal.
The United manager has been under increasing fire over recent weeks – initially for an inability to inspire the kind of attacking mentality in keeping with the club’s tradition, and lately for his man-management style that seems out of place in the millennial era.
Manchester United squad vs Swansea:
De Gea, Pereira, O'Hara
Valencia, Darmian, Smalling, Bailly, Lindelof, Shaw, Young
Matic, McTominay, Herrera, Pogba, Carrick, Lingard, Mata
— United Xtra (@utdxtra) March 31, 2018
There’s been a swell of criticism of the manager in recent weeks regarding the treatment of Shaw, especially. But concerns over whether Mourinho is making any progress tactically also refuses to die down. And the man who made way for the Portuguese also chipped in:
“I am not disappointed with Jose Mourinho. Every coach wants to train Manchester United, it’s one of the biggest clubs in the world,” said Louis van Gaal.
“I think Jose wanted that, too. And although he was able to do so in 13th place, he had a chance on a fantastic team like Chelsea. I was in fourth place! I still do not blame him.
“What I find wrong is when a CEO says we’re totally happy with you, do not believe the press. Then you win the FA Cup and still be fired”
“Pep Guardiola is, for me, currently the best coach of the Premier League. Pep made City a machine.
“He shows a football that I would have liked to play at Manchester United. But he has better players for it. For me, the process would have taken longer. Unfortunately, I did not get the time”
A showdown to decide the current best Portuguese manager in the PL
But the game today presents an ideal chance for Mourinho, both to shore up confidence as United enter the final stretch in the race for second place – and a respectable end to the campaign – as well as put the Shaw and Pogba sagas behind him. United can make it four wins on the trot leading up to the crucial Manchester Derby – a game that can seal the title for City.
But while Swansea City may not be daunting opponents for Mou, they’re far from pushovers. Especially since Carlos Carvalhal took over in December. Carvalhal, Mourinho’s compatriot, has guided the Swans from the bottom to 14th place – 3 points clear of the drop-zone. It may not be time to relax yet, but they have some breathing room where almost all were convinced the club were a cert for relegation.
3️⃣ hours until @PremierLeague football returns to Old Trafford!
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 31, 2018
But that’s not all that should bother Mourinho. The Swans have a tendency to pull off escape acts at Old Trafford. United may have beaten them twice already this season, but Swansea have lost just twice in their past five visits at the ground. The fixture may not exactly be high-stakes. But there’s still a good deal in the balance for either manager. It’ll be interesting to see who comes on top.
Mourinho, as is his wont, shrugs off questions about Shaw and Pogba
After Paul Pogba’s showing for the French national side over the international break, Mourinho was again fielded questions regarding the midfielder’s position in his squad. Pogba is expected to start against the Swans. But the Portuguese made it clear that Pogba’s problem isn’t really with injuries or fitness, but something else:
“This season and also last season (referring to Pogba’s injuries). I think he is very fine after the injury. It was a difficult injury, it was an injury that other players, other clubs, other medical assessments, they end in surgery.
“His option with the medical opinions was not to go to the surgery table and his recovery was really, really good and I think he is more than fine in relation to the recovery from the injury, which is a muscular area sometimes where you have a recurrence. In his case, not at all.
Mourinho on Pogba, "I don't speak about my players' international form."
— Chris Winterburn (@cmwinterburn) March 30, 2018
“It’s nothing to do with his injury. His recovery was good.”
When pushed to elaborate what he thinks the reason is the Portuguese chose to direct the questions to the Frenchman himself:
“Ask him. Ask him when you have a chance what he thinks about it. I work. It’s the only thing I can do. I cannot do anything else.”
…and those about Shaw as well
But the manager’s treatment of Pogba can only be considered gentle compared to that of Luke Shaw, who’s practically been Mourinho’s designated whipping boy from the time he took the helm at United. After giving the left-back the double-barrel during the FA Cup tie with Brighton, and reports of a confrontation between the two in the aftermath, Mourinho played down the issue, saying he had no problem starting Shaw against the Swans:
“A report that Luke asked me why I changed him? I told him. He didn’t ask me the question,” Mourinho said of supposed confrontation. “I told him.
“What happened since then? Nothing. I am the coach. I make the changes I want to do when I want to do. If I want to change the player in minute five I change the player in minute five. If I want to change in minute 98, I change in minute 98. The moment when a new rule comes to football that forbids managers to do that then I become a pundit, not a manager. Nothing happened.”
Luke Shaw asked Mourinho ‘Why are you always picking on me?’ during a heated dressing-room row at half time vs Brighton. Mourinho responded by telling him he wasn’t defending well enough. Both raised their voices and could be heard from outside the dressing room. #mufc [Mail]
— United Xtra (@utdxtra) March 29, 2018
On starting him on Saturday against the Swans:
“If he’s available or unavailable, Luke Shaw is always an option. Ashley Young was available to play against Brighton and I started with Luke Shaw, so that’s not a problem.”
And Luke Shaw’s future:
“Yeah, I think (he will be here next season). But I always say that door is open for everyone, so no problem for him but I think so. He’s selected. He’s in the 18.”