Saturday 20 January 2018

Jose has some big problems he must solve after derby

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola at the end of last wekend’s derby at Old Trafford. Photo: Carl Recine/Reuters
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola at the end of last wekend’s derby at Old Trafford. Photo: Carl Recine/Reuters

Jose Mourinho was very clear about Paul Pogba, his £100m man. He was buying the best all-round midfielder in the world and he would be the man to run the show for Manchester United.

I'm afraid he's not and I doubt he will ever be that kind of player.

He was, Mourinho, told us, the man to solve all his problems and again, I think he is not that player.

Mourinho has a number of big problems, bigger perhaps than I thought he would have to deal with and if I was writing a report card on the two Manchester teams, I would be saying that Pep Guardiola has much less to do to bring his team up to the required level.

I remember doing some analysis on Pogba during Euro 2016, just before Ireland played France, and pointing out the lad's strengths and weaknesses.

I was able to say he's a dynamic, exciting player going forward but at no point was I able to say that Pogba is a complete midfielder who could direct and control a game with the ball at his feet and nothing has changed my mind since.

He played central midfielder for France against Ireland and he hardly showed at all in the game.

I could say exactly the same about him in the Manchester derby. I sometimes doubt whether he's a midfielder at all.

Mourinho also has a dilemma about Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney and this derby game changed my thinking on what might happen at Old Trafford in the next three or four months.

I believed that Ibrahimovic would be the one to lose out to in-form Marcus Rashford and that the Swedish international's partnership with Rooney would not work.

Now I see Rooney as the compromise. Ibrahimovic is scoring goals and logic dictates that Mourinho will not drop him. Rashford is on fire and has to play.

Rooney looks a shadow of the player he might have been and I don't think a shift back into midfield will work for him.

It would be a big thing for Mourinho to do if he was to drop Rooney but as things stand, he cannot fit all three into his team and something has to give.

His decisions will be complicated by the fact that there will be games in which Ibrhimovic doesn't score and since he brings nothing else to the table, Manchester United will be playing a man down.

Another of Mourinho's new signings, Eric Bailly, looks a bit too rash for my liking and Henrik Mkhitaryan was subbed early with Jessie Lingard; an admission from the manager that he had made a mistake.

So all of his big buys, for one reason or another, have yet to convince me of their worth and it could well be that the solution to Mourinho's difficulties will only be found in the transfer market.

Guardiola, on the other hand, looks to be in much better shape.

He chose not to mess around with full-backs in midfield and while I still have some concerns about his interest in that idea and indeed the notion that his goalkeeper should be a sweeper, I was delighted to see that all the good things which make me respect and admire Guardiola were present and correct in Manchester City's approach.

It must have been very heartening for City fans watching a lad like Kevin de Bruyne, who I didn't think was smart enough to be a great player, put in a match-winning display.

It was easy to see the Guardiola effect in action in de Bruyne's performance. He had clearly been encouraged to play with freedom and responded in a very satisfying way.

I picked Liverpool to win the title this season and I'm still happy with my choice. Jurgen Klopp had a set-back against Burnley but his team is scoring a lot of goals.

But looking at Guardiola's team in the derby and the progress he has made in a short space of time, I think that Manchester City will provide the toughest opposition along the way.

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