herald

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Jose sets a new goal standard

United boss demands bigger spread of goals from his side starting with Hammers opener

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is ready to shake hands on a new deal for Zlatan Ibrahmovic as he prepares for the visit of West Ham tomorrow.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is ready to shake hands on a new deal for Zlatan Ibrahmovic as he prepares for the visit of West Ham tomorrow.
Romelu Lukaku scores against Real Madrid last Tuesday night.

Jose Mourinho says more players need to chip in with goals this season if Manchester United are to challenge for the Premier League.

Europa League, League Cup and Community Shield glory was a decent return in the Portuguese’s first campaign in the Old Trafford dugout, as was Champions League qualification.

However, United finished in sixth place and an eye-watering 24 points behind champions Chelsea - despite losing the same number of Premier League games as Mourinho’s former club.

Struggling

An unerring knack of drawing matches they dominated proved their undoing, struggling to break teams down when top goalscorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic was absent or stuttered.

Mourinho knows they were over-reliant on the injured ex-Swedish striker’s goals and wants more support for this season’s main man Romelu Lukaku.

“In my other clubs what I had was more players scoring goals,” he said ahead of tomorrow’s Premier League opener at home to West Ham.

“Midfield players scoring goals, wingers scoring goals, central defenders good in the air scoring goals at set-pieces.

“We always had that so my teams always had the goalscorer, we always had the guy that scores more goals, but then we had the winger that scored 15 goals, we had the midfield player who scored 10 goals, we had the central defender that scored five goals.

“And last season that didn’t happen much - we were focused on the goals that our striker was scoring and when he was not scoring, the team was a little bit in trouble to win matches.”

Mourinho does not necessarily buy into the idea that more goals are needed, just a fairer spread to help them win more matches.

Lukaku, Victor Lindelof and Nemanja Matic have been brought into help in to boost their title challenge, with the United boss looking to continue his remarkable record of winning the league in his second campaign in all five spells in charge of a major club. “It’s not because I always did it that I am going to do it,” the ex-Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid boss said.

“There’s no relation between clubs and countries and seasons and periods, so obviously there is no guarantee. I don’t think I am going to win because I always win in the second season - not at all.

“I just think naturally a manager in the second season knows the players better, knows the club better. I don’t say the league because I have been in this league a long time.

“I have conditions to deliver a better team than I did in the first season. If that is going to mean better results and the title, I don’t know.”

Leicester and Chelsea won the previous two Premier League titles in campaigns without European football, while Liverpool’s top-four finish last season came in similar circumstances, but this time around all of last season’s top seven are in the Champions League or Europa League.

“I think everybody is in Europe - the top seven, we are all in Europe,” Mourinho said.

“Last season two were not in Europe. This time we are all in the same basket, it is going to be the same for everybody.

“Okay, some will have the luck to play Tuesday or Wednesday, or Saturday or Sunday, but in the end, the number of matches will be the same for everybody.

“Arsenal and Everton, they are in the Europa League. They have to play on the Thursdays, but the top seven are going to be in the four competitions, so no advantage for any one of us.”

Mourinho still speaks of free agent Ibrahimovic as part of the group, saying he is injured for the start of the season along with other “important players” like Luke Shaw, Ashley Young and Marcos Rojo.

Such absentees means the United boss does not believe they have advanced hugely compared with this time last year, but he retains hope of making a fourth summer signing.

Asked if full-back was an area he was happy with or looking to strengthen, Mourinho said: “You know 25 per cent means one of four.

“And we got a central defender that can play in many other positions, which is important. Victor can play right-back and can play central midfield.

“We got a central midfielder, we got a striker.”

With the London Stadium currently being used for the IAAF World Championships, West Ham’s trip to Old Trafford will be the first of four away games to open the new domestic campaign.

Hammers boss Slaven Bilic said: “It’s not ideal playing there first game of the season, but on the other hand, it is brilliant and one of the greatest away games in the league.

“They have improved the squad with quality and big transfers, so we will have to be on top of our game.”

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