By John Boyne
29 goals conceded in the league last season. Mourinho manged to instill confidence in a team struggling from three years of poor management. 29 goals. That’s quite incredible. When the Portuguese coach took over last summer, he was determined to make United a force to be feared once again. This included making Old Trafford the fortress we know it is. While there were clearly areas to improve up front, Jose knew that creating solid foundations was the key to success.
Sir Alex had the same approach. Whether it was Bruce and Pallister or Vidic and Ferdinand, the defense had to be in order. After all, it doesn’t matter how many goals you score, if your back-line is fragile. World-class goalkeepers were also a key part to our success. Mourinho recognised that when he arrived. Bailly was signed, De Gea was told he was going nowhere and now Lindelof has signed from Benfica. I saw the Swede play many times last season for Benfica, and he’s already a class act.
This is how Mourinho builds champions. Start with the back and move up. Lukaku has now signed and another attacking wide player is perhaps next. United will add to their goal tally next season without sacrificing their defensive strength. On the other hand, Liverpool still continue with their Gegenpressing style, or as realists call it, headless chicken football.
Liverpool conceded 13 more league goals than United last year. They continually switched between Mignolet and Karius. Two keepers who love a good howler. What do you expect from a team that had David James in goals for years? Their defence is an embarrassment. Players like Moreno, Lovren and Klavan are not good enough for this level. James Milner filled in at LB! Now they’ve spent money on a replacement from Hull City.
While Klopp keeps adding more attacking wingers/midfielders to the ranks, everything behind the front line is as fragile as Mignolet under a high ball. Liverpool will run around like lunatics again this season, before tiring of the headless chicken sprinting. The defence clearly isn’t good enough and that means they’ll have a year where all the pre-season optimism will end in tears.
Now for the Liverpool fan’s opinion by @deathbeforeunited
Lets talk about goals. Liverpool scored 78 last season. It’s not a great return. The sides boasts a young, fluid, quick attack and has only been improved by addition of Salah. It seems Coutinho, one of the most envied young attacking midfielders on the planet, can drop deeper and perhaps play a freer role. With no African Cup of Nations this season we can expect Salah and Sadio Mane to torment defences without letting up, which should make a massive difference. Manchester United scored 54 goals last season.Ibrahimovic was always a stop gap but a badly needed one because other than him, the United attack was a pale imitation of the powerhouse of years ago. Rashford is a callow youth, not yet ready to really make an impact at senior level. Martial has moments of glittering skill but can’t string 3 good games together. Mata the same. Lukaku should make a difference but attacks aren’t based only on one player. Klopp knows this. He chose to pursue a winger rather than a centre forward. Salah weighs in with goals, but more importantly assists. His running turned Edin Djeko from a lamp post for Man City into a goal machine for Roma. Tottenham scored 86 last season and we should be able to match that this year.
They conceded a whole lot less than Liverpool, which isn’t a surprise since Mourinho is known for parking the bus to drag out points against literally any side he can scrape them from. Klopp waged war trying to bag Virgil Van Dijk earlier in the season and no one would suggest the Liverpool defence is other than fragile. But Lovren put in a very solid season as his stats show Better than Bailly in fact, and James Milner was highly effective at left back, far better than Luke Shaw over the same amount of games. We’ll see if he even keeps his spot. Matip is coming through solidly also. I’m not a fan of Mingolet. I think we need a goalie and De Gea is definitely a far stronger option. Which of the best sides in teh world boast glittering defences though? I’m not convinced by Barcelona’s defence, Real and Bayern’s defences are star studded yet they concede regularly. Liverpool are building a solid midfield to attack tactic based on the development of players like Emre Can, Sadio Mane and Countinho and get stronger each year.
United live in a fantasy. Their fans seem to believe they’ll be challenging for anything next season. They still can’t get their midfield trio working and can’t wring the best from Pogba. Chelsea are unlikely to hand them over Matic no matter who they buy. They haven’t the quality when it comes to attacking midfielders at the highest level either. We saw this against the top 5 sides last season and we’ll see it in the Champions league this year. There isn’t any strength in depth whatsoever. Players like Smalling and Jones, Lingard and Fellaini are lauded like champions when they actually belong playing somewhere like Burnley. Lukaku should bring them more goals and Lindelof should help shore an already admittedly solid back line but, honestly, if this team are expected to chase major honours this year it’s just not going to happen.
Klopp has a built a team that can hurt anyone, Mourinho has built a wall with second rate players and will hope to sting better teams. We’ll see how that pans out.
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