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Saturday 10 December 2016

League Cup is a lifeline for Jose and fans

Mourinho's appeal to United supporters is all about pressure

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho apologises to the Old Trafford faithful for last Sunday’s 4-0 Premier League defeat to Chelsea after Wednesday night’s League Cup win over Manchester City
Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho apologises to the Old Trafford faithful for last Sunday’s 4-0 Premier League defeat to Chelsea after Wednesday night’s League Cup win over Manchester City
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola

The League Cup is a great ready reckoner to assess the level of desperation being experienced by a manager at any given moment in the season.

Depending on the circumstances, the League Cup can be a lifesaver or an irritation and for José Mourinho it has suddenly become a very important thing.

Pep Guardiola couldn't hide the fact that he was actually delighted to go out of the competition, which was honest if a bit foolish.

It is never a good thing to lose a local derby, in this case one of the biggest in football, no matter how self-confident you are.

But for the purposes of this article, it gives a very accurate snapshot of a club at a moment in time.

Manchester United fans are not happy. They are worried and desperate for some sign of success, some indication that Mourinho is going to win trophies.

Disaster

That 4-0 disaster at Stamford Bridge was bad enough to suggest something different for the months ahead

Manchester City fans are still luxuriating in the fact that they have the top manager in the game and even if he hasn't had a win in six games they still believe he will do the business.

They also know that Manchester City's priorities this season are the Premier League title and the Champions League.

So if City fans were a bit miffed to lose to their bitter rivals, they could tell themselves quite reasonably that it is a good thing to drop out of one strength-sapping competition.

They can also reassure themselves with the fact that Guardiola put out a B team rather than a rotated team.

Mourinho did the opposite. He put out his best side and won the game.

I noticed that he spoke quite a lot about the fans before and after the game and told them how sorry he was for the 4-0 defeat by Chelsea

To me that looked weak.

If he believes he needs to make a direct appeal to the fans even at this early stage in his time at Old Trafford, he must be feeling serious pressure. They are already suspicious about his long-term plans, given the fact that he admitted he didn't want to buy a big house in Manchester.

I find that very strange. Would he not even rent himself a house instead of living in a hotel with photographers camped outside all day and night?

It certainly sends the wrong signal. The fans will see a manager based in London who has no desire to settle, even temporarily, near the football club he manages.

Guardiola is living in the thick of it in Salford while Mourinho cuts a lonely figure in his tracksuit coming and going from an expensive hotel.

It's a small thing but nevertheless important and it shows that Guardiola is very mindful of doing everything right.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same about his dogged determination to turn goalkeepers into outfield players.

Every day I think about this and wonder how a man with such strong football instincts can jettison over a 100 years of custom and practice and try to turn goalkeepers into something they should never be.

As everyone knows, the football I want to see played is the football Guardiola loves too but on this one, I think he has lost the plot completely.

Goalkeepers need to be physically tall, physically imposing and brave to the point of stupidity.

Instinct

The instinct when their goal line is threatened should be to get the ball as far away from it as possible with whatever part of the body is handy at the time.

Their legs are for blocking when their hands can't reach the ball and because of the very specialised nature of their training, they can never do enough work with the ball on the ground to be comfortable in possession.

Some goalkeepers can play a bit and that can come in handy on the odd occasion in a game but to make it a tactic and to insist that they be able to play as well as outfield players is just ridiculous.

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