The game that everybody was anticipating was quickly upon us. After three good results – shaky defence – but scoring more than we conceded I am sure everybody, fans, coaching staff and witnesses alike, from near or far were expecting our fourth win. But nothing ever goes to plan. Mourinho returned to the home that he got three trophies for, and sacked for his troubles, only to get the result he didn’t want.
The preparations went well, the team talk was inspiring and motivational, and the feel and mood was positive. But once out on the pitch, the best-laid plans can go amiss. To be honest, it basically boiled down to chance and luck. We had most of the possession but didn’t take the chances. They did and won. Granted, with a little help from Sissoko, they took all the spoils.
Mourinho was well received by the United fans, who never fell out with their former manager and have no particular axe to grind with him.
This game had contained only five players Mourinho picked for the corresponding fixture last season, which we won 3-0. It was also the game that he demanded the media show him some “respect” for his three Premier League titles. The first of those triumphs is over 15 years ago. His task now is to show his best days are not behind him. His/ our best days are ahead of us.
Sadly, though, his substitutes failed to inspire (as they had in our previous matches) and with eight goals conceded in four games, Mourinho evidently has some work to do defensively. At the end of the game, he moved to shake Solskjaer’s hand before walking away to try and lift his players.
As for Alli, for months, there had been a debate about what had happened to him. Once one of the golden boys of the English game, he had been reduced in influence and effectiveness and lost his place in Gareth Southgate’s national squad. The answer to that question was to replace the manager that had done so much for him. Nevertheless, a new broom revitalised him back to his old self.
One of the first things Mourinho did after replacing Mauricio Pochettino was to ask Alli whether it was him or his brother who had been playing for Tottenham in recent times. Well, this is definitely him.
Alli’s third goal in three Premier League games – he only scored three in his last 17 under Pochettino – was extraordinary. Fred thought he had the situation under control as the ball looped up on the edge of the six-yard box.
But Alli leaned into the Brazilian, then rolled round him after a beautiful piece of control before turning a shot past De Gea into the far corner. It showed he was back and back with a bang. Rashford scored United’s two goals.
Manchester United are now unbeaten in their last nine home matches in all competitions (W5 D4) since losing 2-1 to Crystal Palace in August. It is not a statistic we wanted to contribute to. Unfortunately, we have lost more Premier League matches against Manchester United than against any other team (35 defeats).
Mourinho has won none of his last five away Premier League matches against the Red Devils (D3 L2), failing to beat four different managers in that time (Ferguson, Moyes, van Gaal and Solskjaer).
Dele Alli has scored in three consecutive appearances for us in all competitions for the first time since March 2017 (a run of four).
So, what’s next for us? A home match against Burnley and then a trip to Munich for a pointless game, but it will probably be used as a team-building exercise. Win, lose or draw and our league position, in the Champions League, will stay the same; i.e. we are through to the knock out stages.
So, there you have it. But I am sure that even though we’ve been knocked back, it won’t be as far back if Pochettino had stayed at the helm.
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