Manchester United in crisis as Mourinho struggles to balance attack and defence


Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United slumped to a third defeat in as many games following a 3-1 loss to Watford at Vicarage Road.

The latest loss leaves the Red Devils seventh in the standings, six points behind leaders and local rivals Manchester City.

Mourinho’s teams are generally known for their defensive solidity but at a club that demand a more open, attacking approach, the Portuguese has been found wanting in a bid to balance attack and defence in these early days.

Mourinho also blamed the referees after United's loss to Watford.

Mourinho also blamed the referees after United’s loss to Watford.

Instead, the former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss was left discussing his own balance after a run of defeats that he has suffered for the first time since 2006.

“I have this capacity of balance. Balance is, for me, not running around the pitch when we were winning a couple of matches and nobody sees now me being too depressed. I’m sad,” said a disappointed Mourinho after the game.

Despite lining up in a 4-3-3 shape to accommodate and extract the best out of both Wayne Rooney and Paul Pogba, United struggled to create meaningfully over the course of the game.

The fact midfielder Marouane Fellaini was engaged an aerial battle with Watford striker Troy Deeney despite the Belgian leading all sorts of passing numbers in the game suggested the lack of structure going forwards for United. Both Pogba and Rooney struggled to impose themselves in midfield, and it took Zlatan Ibrahimovic taking matters into his own hands in the second half that allowed the Red Devils a way back into the game.

But credit should go Watford’s way for the way they picked holes in the United defence to retake the lead and the full-time 3-1 result was just rewards for Walter Mazzarri’s Hornets, who were the only team with a plan on the day.

Only Messi is better than De Bruyne

A few miles up the road at Manchester City, Pep Guardiola became the first manager since Mourinho with his 2005/06 Chelsea vintage to lead a Premier League side to victories in a season’s first eight games following a 4-0 rout of Bournemouth.

Kevin De Bruyne played a part in all four City goals as the Belgian playmaker was all over the Cherries in a performance that prompted Guardiola to wax lyrical about his main man post-match.

Guardiola singled De Bruyne out for special praise after his virtuoso display against Bournemouth.

Guardiola singled De Bruyne out for special praise after his virtuoso display against Bournemouth.

“When we talk about Messi, maybe he can sit alone in the table, with no-one else allowed. But in the table beside, Kevin can sit there,” said Guardiola when quizzed where De Bruyne stands among the best players in the world. City fans won’t be complaining.

New signings make their mark

Leicester City’s Premier League defense hasn’t gone according to plan but at least they are back to winning games and scoring goals. Their record signing Islam Slimani marked his debut with two goals in a comfortable 3-0 win for the Foxes at home against Burnley.

Another new signing who opened his scoring this gameweek was Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka. The Swiss international was the standout summer signing for the Gunners and he capped off Arsenal’s fine 4-1 win over ten-man Hull with a strike to rival Jordan Henderson’s goal against Chelsea.

Xhaka scored with a fine long range effort against Hull.

Xhaka scored with a fine long range effort against Hull.

West Brom’s Nacer Chadli tore West Ham apart with two goals and two assists that saw the Baggies score four goals for the first time under Tony Pulis. West Ham overshot their attacking numbers last season that helped them finish seventh with a club record points tally, but they have reverted to mean this term and allied with defensive frailties, find themselves in the relegation zone after a second successive 4-2 loss.

Meanwhile, former Hammer James Tomkins opened his Crystal Palace account in a 4-1 hammering of Stoke City, who are rooted at the bottom having collected just a point from their opening five games. Andros Townsend also netted his first Eagles goal in a fairly satisfying round of games for new signings.

Battle for the Golden Boot

The race for the league’s top scorer gong is still in its early stages but holder Harry Kane is back among the goals which should spell trouble for the current incumbents of the top spot in the scorers’ table. Kane has now scored twice in two games after a barren spell in August and handed Spurs a narrow 1-0 win over struggling Sunderland.

Spurs have leapfrogged Manchester United and Chelsea into third, and look as solid as they were last season, conceding just two goals thus far.

Diego Costa managed to add to his goals tally in Chelsea’s home defeat to Liverpool, but was largely isolated as they were underwhelmed by the dynamic Reds.

Etienne Capoue had scored only once in the Premier League before this season but now has four goals from Watford’s opening five games. The French midfielder will most certainly be out of the top scorer’s race come the season’s end, but he has certainly made his presence felt in early running.

600 up for Barry

Everton midfielder Gareth Barry has joined the elite list of 600 Premier League appearance makers in the Toffees’ 3-1 home win over Middlesbrough. The 35-year-old is now only behind Frank Lampard and Ryan Giggs and he has been phenomenal in Everton’s flying start to the season.

Barry scored on his 600th Premier League appearance in Everton's win over Boro.

Barry scored on his 600th Premier League appearance in Everton’s win over Boro.

Everton have made their best-ever start to a Premier League season and sit just two points adrift of leaders Manchester City. New manager Ronald Koeman has restored the feel-good factor at Goodison Park as his side have made the most out of their relatively easy start to the season.

Meanwhile, Koeman’s former side Southampton picked up their first win of the season this weekend following a 1-0 defeat of Swansea. Charlie Austin scored the only goal.

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