Month: July 2016

Seven talking points from Shanghai

22/07/2016 22:19, Report by James Tuck assesses some of the key themes from Friday’s Tour 2016 game against Borussia Dortmund in Shanghai…

Jose Mourinho revealed to MUTV on Thursday that he was keen to try out different formations, players and positions to those we saw in last weekend’s friendly against Wigan Athletic. And he was true to his word, starting with Memphis Depay as a lone striker, Daley Blind in a holding midfield role, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones as the centre-back pairing and Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the left in a 4-4-1-1. The boss made four changes at the break, bringing on Sergio Romero, Marcos Rojo, Ashley Young and Marcus Rashford in like-for-like swaps, while Adnan Januzaj, Paddy McNair and Andreas Pereira were introduced later.

The new manager is certainly exploring his options. Blind and Ander Herrera flitted between defensive and attacking midfield roles, Mhkitaryan briefly swapped flanks with Jesse Lingard, Pereira played in the middle of the park and, by the end of the game, there was a real fluidity between United’s attacking quartet of Rashford, Juan Mata, Januzaj and Young. With several players yet to return, Mourinho’s line-up for the first game of the season against Bournemouth remains full of intrigue.

Only a couple of weeks after joining United from Dortmund, Mkhitaryan came up against his former club. The Armenian was warmly embraced by his old team-mates before kick-off, as was Shinji Kagawa, who was a popular member of the Reds’ dressing room. Both players were substituted in the second period, while Januzaj came off the bench against the club he played for on loan last season.

Antonio Valencia started the encounter as skipper, a role he also filled in the second half at the DW Stadium, and went about his business in his usual quietly effective style. Regular incumbents Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Chris Smalling were all not involved, but might the Ecuadorian be entrusted with the armband when required during the season?

Luke Shaw admitted it was an emotional moment for him when he ended a 10-month injury absence against the Latics, and he stepped up his return to full fitness with an energetic display at left-back, as one of only four Reds to complete the 90 minutes. It was a sight to gladden the heart of every United fan.

Mourinho indicated in his pre-match press conference that, though the humidity was proving tough for his players, it would also improve their fitness ahead of the new campaign. This was effectively a warm-weather training camp, with United’s new blue away kit turning almost black with sweat and both sides pausing for a lengthy drinks break after 30 minutes in each half. But conditions in flood-stricken Beijing, where the Reds face local rivals Manchester City on Monday, could be quite different.

Hundreds of United fans bellowed out popular terrace chants as they waited for the team bus outside the stadium and, though they were subdued by Dortmund’s four goals, red shirts comfortably outnumbered yellow among the spectators inside Shanghai Stadium. And Mkhitaryan’s unofficial first Reds goal prompted a deafening clap of thunder sticks in a colourful show of support. It continued a theme of the tour so far, with dozens of excited supporters waiting for their heroes in and around the team hotel, morning, noon and night.

Herrera optimistic after Dortmund defeat

22/07/2016 17:05, Report by Mark Froggatt

Ander Herrera did not enjoy losing to Borussia Dortmund during Friday’s match in sweltering Shanghai, but the Manchester United midfielder told MUTV the Reds are focused on a longer term target – which is winning the FA Community Shield next month.

That match against Premier League champions Leicester City on 6 August represents a chance to swiftly secure a first trophy of Jose Mourinho’s reign and Herrera says the players are working towards that occasion.

As such, he was relaxed about the 4-1 defeat to Dortmund when talking moments after the final whistle. “We are a team and we all want to be fit as soon as possible,” Herrera said during a pitchside MUTV appearance.

“That is why we are working so hard in these days. Just yesterday, we trained two times so you can feel it on the pitch but, of course, we want to be ready for Leicester and we want to win the first title of the season. So that is the most important thing, when you play real games.”

Regarding the result, Herrera was quick to praise Dortmund’s display at Shanghai Stadium and pointed to the fact the Bundesliga side have already played more pre-season matches than United. “I think it was a good workout,” he said. “They are a very good team and they have already played five games.

“That is one of the most important things in football, when you have already played games, you are fitter and you are better. But we have no excuses. We are Man United, we shouldn’t lose and we want to win every game. But, this pre-season, we want to put minutes in our legs and I think we can be satisfied but, of course, Man United never wants to lose.

“When you have played five games you can say that you arrive one second before the opponent. It is a very important thing, but we don’t want to make excuses. They are a very good team, they played fantastically and we missed some chances. But I have said before, they just arrived one second earlier. But I think we are improving, we are building a fantastic team and we are optimistic, of course.”

Friday’s match was Mourinho’s second as Reds boss after the 2-0 win at Wigan Athletic and Herrera admitted to MUTV the players are quickly learning how the Portuguese wants to play. “I think we know what we have to do,” the former Athletic Club star told Stewart Gardner and Dwight Yorke.

“One of the things that we have realised already is that every player is very clear with what they have to do. We want very aggressive players in midfield, we want to have the ball but not just have the ball. We want to attack, he wants to attack and I think we are going to see a very offensive Man United. But, of course, when we want to be compact then we are going to do that as well.”

Mourinho reacts to Dortmund defeat

22/07/2016 14:54, Report by Adam Marshall

Jose Mourinho admitted the fact Borussia Dortmund were far more advanced in their pre-season preparations was always likely to be the deciding factor in Manchester United’s opening game of Tour 2016 presented by Aon.

Gonzalo Castro scored twice for the Bundesliga side with Pierre Emerick Aubameyang’s generously-awarded penalty and Ousmane Dembele’s wonderful solo strike earning a 4-1 victory. Henrikh Mkhitaryan got off the mark for the Reds with a tap-in against his former club but it proved in vain.

United boss Mourinho was keen to stress beforehand the result was not important at this early stage of the pre-season, and Dortmund’s superior fitness told in sweltering conditions.

“I think in pre-season the team that wins is always the team that is in an advanced stage of the preparation,” he told MUTV. “Always. Never the best team, always the team that is in advance. It was too obvious.

“The team with four matches in their legs against the team with one match. The team working a lot of months against us with a maximum of 15 days, some of them arrived three or four days ago. There was a huge difference in preparation. Nobody likes to lose. We’re not happy with that but happy with the 90 minutes we have in our legs. It was very important to compete in difficult circumstances with the weather and the opponents and that was good for us.”

Dortmund were always likely to provide a stern test and the German side certainly showed their attacking prowess.

“There are different tours,” said Mourinho. “Some people prefer to play against lower quality teams and win to get confidence out of it. Sometimes it’s confidence out of context and out of reality. When you’re playing a team like Borussia Dortmund, that starts before us and, of course, are one of the good teams in Europe, it is obviously more difficult. The players are frustrated as nobody likes to lose. Even if you say it’s not a problem, you don’t like to lose – even in friendlies. In reality, I was expecting a very difficult match.”

The tour now moves on to Beijing with Manchester City providing the opposition on Monday, but it is still very much a case of work in progress for Mourinho as he gets to know his squad.

“At the moment, I’m not even creating a team,” he stressed. “So many players are not here. We’re creating individuals’ form and trying to bring these players to a good condition. For the new signings and all of the players, they had a chance to play 45, 70 or 90 minutes. It’s very, very important and I can imagine it will take a long time to recover from this effort in the game. In this weather, in reality, at this stage of pre-season for them individually it’s good.”

Mourinho happy with transfer situation

21/07/2016 12:03, Report by Adam Marshall

Jose Mourinho is confident Manchester United will continue to enjoy a good transfer window this summer following the acquisition of Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The manager was inevitably asked about the speculation regarding Juventus star Paul Pogba when he held a press conference to preview Friday’s opening game of Tour 2016, presented by Aon, against Borussia Dortmund.

“I don’t confirm and I don’t deny,” the boss replied when asked directly about the France midfielder. “I cannot tell you.

“First of all because I don’t think it is correct to talk about players at other clubs. He is a Juventus player, not a Manchester United player. All I can say is my board and directors did fantastic work to do 75 per cent of the job I asked them to do.

“I asked them for four players, four profiles of players I needed and I gave them options. So 75 per cent of the job is done. We have just 25 per cent left to do until 31 August. We are in great conditions to have what I would consider to be a good market for us.

“We are calm. We know the kind of players we want. We have three faces to fill the profile and I am really confident Mr [Ed] Woodward and the owners will get the player I want to have the good balance.”