Jose taking one step at a time

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho says it is far too early to talk about whether his team are serious candidates to win the Champions League this season.

The Red Devils begin their Group H campaign away to Young Boys on Wednesday evening, with Mourinho hoping to mastermind a fourth United European Cup triumph, with the last having come back in 2008.

However, the Portuguese is not about to get too far ahead of himself, telling reporters: "It is premature to be speaking about our chances when we didn't even play the first match.

"I would focus on the first match and after that on the group phase – one of the most difficult group phases – and we have two positions to qualify and our focus must be on that."

Meanwhile, Mourinho also confirmed that England international striker Marcus Rashford will start the game in Bern, but Luis Antonio Valencia will not feature due to concerns about how he would cope with a long-standing knee problem on the artificial turf in Switzerland.

The Portuguese added: "We decide not to play Antonio Valencia because his knee is not a knee that needs an artificial pitch at all.

"Valencia's situation, we need to protect his clinical situation, apart from that we go with everything we have and have to try and win."

United, who have won their last two Premier League games, are 7/10 to claim victory on Wednesday evening and are 7/1 to win the game by a 2-0 scoreline.

Rashford is available at 7/4 to score at any time, having recently found the net for England against both Spain and Switzerland.

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Shaw confimed for Swiss return

England international Luke Shaw will be back in the Manchester United starting line-up for the Champions League clash with Young Boys on Wednesday evening.

Left-back Shaw sat out the 2-1 win at Watford after suffering concussion while on international duty, with Ashley Young stepping in as cover against one of his former clubs.

However, Red Devils head coach Jose Mourinho has confirmed that Shaw is fit and raring to go for the first game of the club's Champions League campaign.

He told reporters after the success at Vicarage Road: "Shaw plays Wednesday. We can't do it with one left-back and Ashley Young is not just a left-back – he's also a right-back.

"They both are doing well and they are different players, and they both understand that one is a young player and the other one is the experienced one.

"It's good for us to have these two options."

United are 3/4 to win in Bern on Wednesday and are 15/2 to secure a 2-0 victory, with the men from Manchester 6/4 to keep a clean sheet.

Meanwhile, Mourinho has told his players not to take their feet off the pedals after they almost allowed Watford to earn a draw on Saturday, with United having been in total charge when two goals to the good at half-time.

The Portuguese added: "I am very happy with the points. I am very happy with something that represents for me the spirit of the team, but I feel a bit frustrated because we had everything in the first half to kill the game.

"In the beginning of the second half, we let the game go down in intensity, we stopped being aggressive with and without the ball. We gave them the chance to score a goal and to give ourselves a difficult match."

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Citizens cool over Aguero knock

Manchester City are hopeful that the injury sustained by Sergio Aguero in the 3-0 victory at home to Fulham proves not to be too serious.

Aguero had to be replaced early on in the second half against the Cottagers, with Gabriel Jesus taking his place in a comfortable win for the reigning Premier League champions.

However, head coach Pep Guardiola did not seem too concerned about the knock after the game, saying: "It was something in the ankle. He went up to head a cross and when he fell down, he felt something.

"He finished the first half and started the second half a bit uncomfortable. He could have played on, but with us winning 3-0 we did not want to take a risk."

Meanwhile, Guardiola was also delighted to see Germany forward Leroy Sane mark his return to the starting line-up with a goal and a positive performance.

Sane had previously made three appearances as a substitute in the league this season, but impressed when given the nod by Guardiola on Saturday.

The Spaniard added: "We never doubted Leroy's quality. He showed us many times, especially last season.

"We cannot forget: he is 22 years old. These kinds of things – having up and down periods – happen at that age. He has to realise what he has to do as a professional."

City are currently priced at 4/6 to retain their Premier League crown, with Liverpool available at 5/2 and Chelsea 9/1.

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Premier League: United Win Ugly to End Watford’s Perfect Start

Watford 1-2 Manchester United

Goals change games, and that was definitely the case in this Premier League 2018 encounter.

The outcome remained in the balance until the very end but, ultimately, two goals in four minutes towards the end of the first half won the contest.

A spirited Watford threatened a comeback but they have finally lost their 100 per cent record start to the season which had provided one of the early Premier League 2018 news stories.

Highlights of the game

For a side playing with confidence, it was perhaps no surprise Watford were not reluctant to try and attack United at Vicarage Road. The best of the opening exchanges saw David de Gea superbly tip a Troy Deeney effort over the bar.

The Watford skipper is a big favourite in these parts, and he is considered a big factor in the side’s fine start to the campaign which has been put down to an array of factors.

Next, it was Manchester United’s turn to attack: Alexis Sanchez had the ball in the net eight minutes later only to be denied by an offside flag.

The Chilean then forced ex-United keeper Ben Foster into action and, in a spell which was a little low on quality, perhaps we should not have been surprised with the way the opener arrived 10 minutes before the break.

Ashley Young delivered an inviting ball, and there was Romelu Lukaku to bundle the ball home in any fashion he could.

United had their dander up, and, after Foster denied Paul Pogba, one quickly became two.

Marouane Fellaini, who wasn’t expected to play after sustaining an injury on international duty for Belgium, flicked on a corner, and there was centre-back Chris Smalling bringing the ball down on his chest and swivelling expertly before volleying past Foster.

Manager Jose Mourinho’s tactics had overstretched the home side in the middle of the park, and the match would surely have been over on the stroke of half-time. But for Foster blocked another Pogba effort with his legs.

Watford improved after the break, possibly not helped by United easing off a little, but Lukaku went closest to adding another before the Hornets finally found some sting.

After Smalling blocked a goal-bound Christian Kabasele header, Abdoulaye Doucoure’s cut-back was met on the edge of the box by the unmarked Andre Gray. He superbly smashed the ball into the top corner of the net.

Watford fans audibly sensed Man United’s weakness, but they suddenly scored twice in 1st half of the Premier League game

Watford fans urging their team in Vicarage Road

Important interceptions and crucial challenges kept the game on a knife edge with Doucoure leading Watford’s pressing and United dangerous on the counter-attack.

De Gea kept out his effort just as the match headed for stoppage time, and then came the other crucial moment.

Seconds after Matic had been shown a second yellow card, there was De Gea again to tip away a Kabasele header.

Many us fans thought it may be an equaliser, but United had held firm and Smalling had the winner – good job, for his manager wasn’t too impressed by his new look haircut!

Key statistics

A Premier League 2018 highlights package might not need editing for the spell in which there were three minutes and 11 seconds between United’s two goals.

Lukaku has scored 20 goals in 39 Premier League games for United since joining from Everton last summer. Only three players have reached their tally in fewer EPL games then the Belgian.

Watford have lost 15 of their last 16 clashes with Man Utd.

Until this one, Watford had won four consecutive matches in the top flight for the first time since 1988-89.

The Hornets have won 23 points at home since head coach Javi Gracia took charge in February.

Until today, Jose Holebas had been involved in more goals than any other Premier League player so far this season (one goal, four assists).

United have won the last 25 league matches in which they have scored first.

Alexis Sanchez has played six times against Watford – scoring three and setting up three.

Watford fans booed Ashley Young’s name as it was read out at the start of the match and then again when the match started.

He used to play for the Hornets before he moved to Aston Villa in January 2007. He also scored twice in this fixture last season.

What’s next?

This match was the start of a hectic period for United.

They will face Young Boys of Switzerland in their Champions League Group H opener next midweek before returning to Old Trafford for a home league match with Wolves and an EFL Cup tie at home to Derby County. The Cup contest will pit Mourinho against one of his former star players, one-time Chelsea star Frank Lampard.

The tough matches for Watford continue as they now prepare for a sequence of away games after a glut of home matches.

Next weekend, they travel to Fulham before facing Spurs, who they defeated a fortnight ago, at Wembley in the EFL Cup.

 

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Jose dismisses Pogba rumours

Manager Jose Mourinho has yet again played down rumours suggesting that France international midfield ace Paul Pogba wants to leave Manchester United.

Reports continue to circulate suggesting that the Red Devils' record signing wants to move on, possibly as soon as January, with clubs in both Spain and Italy mentioned as possible destinations.

However, ahead of a Saturday teatime Premier League visitor to in-form Watford, Mourinho says he has heard nothing from the player himself to suggest that an exit is on the cards.

He told assembled reporters at his pre-match press conference: "At this moment, I am in the dark. The only thing that is clear for me is that the player never, never in all these days we are together, told me he wants to leave.

"Paul came back after the World Cup in the week before the start of the Premier League, so we have been together for about two months or so and he has never told me that he wants to leave.

"So I can only comment on what is real for me, not in what I read, not in what I listen to. I have no direct relation with the people that write or the people I listen to.

"I have a direct relation with the player and he never told me he wants to leave. If he doesn't tell me he wants to leave it's because he wants to stay – that's my conclusion."

United are 19/20 to secure all three points at Vicarage Road on Saturday and are 17/2 to win the game 2-1, with World Cup winner Pogba available at 3/1 to score at any time in the game.

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Can United Burst Watford’s Premier League Bubble?

Watford vs Manchester United

If they can it’s not going to be easy.

Watford have been the surprise side in the first month of the Premier League season and are riding on the crest of a wave.

To put it into perspective, they have 12 points from their first four games – a maximum points haul and double that of this weekend’s more illustrious opponents.

Skipper Troy Deeney admits all the pressure is on the visitors – and he is right.

Talking Points

Not even this week’s news that club mascot Harry the Hornet has stepped down has been able to quash the optimism surrounding Watford. They are flying.

Their 2-1 home triumph over Spurs last time out stunned the North Londoners and maintained their perfect start to the campaign.

They are making some of the Premier League 2018 news stories right now, just a month after most pre-season predictions had manager Javi Gracia walking the plank.

After four games, they sit third and are yet to drop a point. Gracia has fielded the same starting XI in all of their matches.

The last time Watford were as high as third in the top flight after August was in May 1983 when they clinched an overall second-place finish.

They are also chasing a record. Victory this weekend would see the side become the first in the club’s history to win its opening five games of a top-flight season.

Their main challenge is sustainability as they have started promisingly before (just this time, it was not expected).

Remember, they were in fourth place after eight games last term and in seventh spot after 15 matches the season before that.

Watford’s start to the season has been in stark contrast to United who have won two and lost two of their opening four games.

While Gracia was the favourite EPL manager to become the first to be sacked, his counterpart Jose Mourinho is the one now under scrutiny with rumours of disharmony – however inaccurate they may be – continuing to circulate among certain sections of the media.

Also in contrast to United, most Watford stars have fresher legs due to not seeing international action this past fortnight, coupled with a vociferous home crowd, will make this a tough game.

They remain without ex-United man Tom Cleverley and Gerard Deulofeu this weekend.

United will be without England’s star man over the past week, Marcus Rashford, as he begins a three-match domestic suspension after picking up the first red card of his fledgeling career in a 2-0 win at Burnley.

Manchester United Ashley Young is expected to step up and fill the gap left by his injured teammates as they faced Watford in the Premier League

Manchester United Ashley Young giving direction to his teammates

Phil Jones is still out, while Marouane Fellaini and Luke Shaw are also major doubts after picking up injuries on international duty; they could well be replaced by Ashley Young and Ander Herrera.

United may well have benefited, however, from the lack of international duty of Alexis Sanchez who showed glimpses of his undoubted magic when he started at Turf Moor.

He was given permission by Chile to miss their friendlies against Japan and South Korea, and that lack of match time, not to mention exhaustive travel, should mean he is fully rested.

The other question is: can this possibly be as exciting a contest as the one these two sides produced in Hertfordshire last season?

History

This fixture last season was a cracker.

A Young-inspired United raced into a three-goal lead inside little over half an hour, and the game looked safe.

The loss of Nemanja Matic to injury led to a little wobble, and Watford threatened the comeback of all comebacks with two goals in seven minutes before a superb solo effort from Jesse Lingard sealed a 4-2 win.

The sides met at Old Trafford on the final day of last season in effectively a ‘dead rubber’ match as United had already secured the runners-up spot and Watford were safe from the threat of relegation.

Rashford scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 home victory which marked Michael Carrick’s final appearance before retirement. (He is now a coach at the club).

Betting Tip

??
Watford vs Manchester United Manchester United, Asian Handicap -0.75 @ 2.23
September 16, 12:30 AM (GMT+8)

Premier League 2018 odds with us make United clear favourites.

Even accounting for Watford’s 100 per cent record start to the season, the Hornets are priced 1X2 @ 3.80, compared to Man Utd @ 1.94.

The draw is an attractive 3.45.

Watford fans will feel it’s worth a punt on their team with Asian Handicap betting with +0.25 @ 2.31.

Over 2.75 goals @ 2.33 is tempting also.

Double chance Watford or draw will pay out @ 1.80, and a repeat of last season’s scoreline at Vicarage Road correct score 2-4 is a whopping @ 70.00.

Lots to ponder.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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Deeney relishing United test

Watford striker Troy Deeney has played down his side's chances of beating Manchester United on Saturday and making it five victories in a row.

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The Hornets are on a high after coming from behind to defeat Tottenham 2-1 just before the international break while United are 10th having lost to Brighton and Spurs already this term.

Jose Mourinho's team did win their last top-flight game at Burnley and they are 6/4 to finish in the top four this term and 10/11 to come out on top at Vicarage Road.

Deeney said: "They are one of those teams we enjoy playing against and it is a free hit.

"Everyone will write us off and, if we win, the headlines are all about Jose [Mourinho] and how the Man United team is not as good as all the greats.

"It will be a good game for the neutral. On our tight pitch, it is a bit like a theatre because it is a late kick-off and the floodlights will be on.

"We can make it uncomfortable for them but we are not naive enough to think we are going to outplay them. We will play our game, implement our style and hopefully it will be enough on the day."

As well as beating Spurs, Watford have also overcome Brighton, Burnley and Crystal Palace so far this season and they are 16/5 to beat Mourinho's team on Saturday evening.

Pogba uncertain over United future

Paul Pogba has said that his immediate future is with Manchester United but he is not certain what will happen in the long term.

There has been intense speculation throughout the summer surrounding the relationship between the 25-year-old and United boss Jose Mourinho.

Barcelona and former club Juventus were both linked with a possible swoop for his signature, but Pogba ultimately stayed put at Old Trafford after the transfer deadline.

It has not stopped the rumours about his future, but Pogba is adamant that he is now focused on rediscovering his best form for the Red Devils following his late return to the club after helping France win the World Cup in the summer.

However, he was cagey when discussing where he will be further down the line.

Speaking after France's goalless draw against Germany at the Allianz Arena in Munich in League A of Uefa's Nations League on Thursday night, Pogba told Sky Germany: "I'm trying to work on myself physically. I got back late [from the World Cup], so I'm trying to perform as well as possible.

"I'm just trying to do my job and for the rest there'll always be talk."

"My future is currently in Manchester," he added.

"I still have a contract, I'm playing there at the moment, but who knows what will happen in the near future."

On Mourinho, Pogba said: "We have a pure coach-player relationship, that's right.

"One thing I can assure you: I will always give 100 per cent, no matter which coach I always give everything, I cannot say more."

Pogba is 25/1 to finish this season with United and pick up the PFA Player of the Year award, while United are available at 6/4 to secure a top-four finish.

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Matic provides Jose backing

Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic says he still sees Jose Mourinho as one of the best coaches in the world.

The Portuguese has come under fire for his side's mediocre start to the season, with defeats against Brighton and Tottenham being compounded by his prickly handling of the press.

United's average displays have come on the back of a tough summer for the coach as the club's hierarchy struggled to secure his preferred transfer targets, an issue he regularly discussed in public.

However, Sunday's 2-0 win over Burnley suggested a return to the type of football the club's fans have become accustomed to and the squad will be looking to return from the international break in a better frame of mind.

Matic also worked with Mourinho at Chelsea, playing a vital role in the club's Premier League title triumph in 2014-15.

After the turmoil of the last few months, the 30-year-old said the coach's action before, during and after the clash at Turf Moor show he remains amongst the elite.

"He was very confident before the game he prepared the game in a very good way," Matic said. "Of course, he knows what he is doing [in press conferences] for sure. You probably know that also. It's good for us also.

"He is one of the best managers in the world, you know what he won in his career so that shows you everything."

United face Watford on Saturday 15th September and are 17/20 to win at Vicarage Road, with the draw 12/5 and the Hornets, who have made a perfect start to the season, available at 10/3.

The Reds Devils are 6/4 to finish in the top four.

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Romelu at the double as United hit back

Burnley 0-2 Manchester United

A week can be a long time in Premier League football.

Whatever national television station or radio channel, newspaper or football internet site you will have visited over the last six days, there seemed to be a mini agenda against English football’s most successful club or, more specifically, its manager.

Of course, the boss Jose Mourinho is too much of an ego for some and his recent comments ensured the focus remained on him before kick-off but the general reaction to a home defeat to Spurs last week was highly disproportionate.

It will be interesting now to see how the same media react to this fine victory in Lancashire.

One swallow may not make a summer but nor should last season’s Premier League and FA Cup runners-up be written off on the basis of two defeats.

Highlights of the game

This had all the hallmarks of a compelling Premier League encounter for us followers.

In fairness to Burnley, they have had an exhausting start to the season and even opposing players have picked up on that in recent weeks.

In the first half, this seemed like one match too many for a team already playing its 10th match of the season.

After three qualifying rounds of the Europa League during July and August, no wonder Sean Dyche’s men have made a stuttering start – the exacting programme would take its toll on most squads, let alone one as small as the Clarets.

From the start they were up against opponents with a point to prove.

Jesse Lingard went close inside four minutes and new home goalkeeper Joe Hart had to be alert to deny Luke Shaw as the visitors started brightly with United fans vocal in their support for Mourinho.

Wearing their new pink away shirt – a homage to the fans’ favourite former Manchester Evening News publication – they kept battling Burnley at bay and took the lead when Romelu Lukaku headed past Hart after a perfectly weighted- delivery from the returning Alexis Sanchez.

Hart then denied Lukaku after he and Sanchez teamed up again but the Belgian wasn’t to be denied and grabbed his second a minute before the break after the ball fortuitously diverted into his path from a Lingard effort.

The goal will not make the Premier League 2018 highlights DVD at the end of the season but the importance was clear as Mourinho punched the air with delight.

The lively Sanchez, one of a few players involved in a seemingly running battle with former United man Phil Bardsley, was replaced by Marcus Rashford just after the hour and the talented teenager was soon brought down in the box.

Hart denied Pogba from the spot and Burnleysniffed a chance of a comeback moments later when Rashford was dismissed for an altercation with Bardsley (perhaps lucky to escape with only a yellow card himself).

The isolated Chris Wood was doing his best to bring them back into the game and Sam Vokes headed just over but United were comfortably managing the game and Lukaku may have completed a hat-trick with a bit more composure.

It didn’t matter. The United number nine had won the game and David De Gea produced a fine save to deny James Tarkowski and avoid a nervous final few minutes.

Man Utd remain well off the pace after the first four matches but the Premier League 2018 odds will change many times yet. This was a professional way to react to the media onslaught.

Key statistics

Jose Mourinho is still in a long way in Premier League

Jose Mourinho shows delight after celebrating victory in Turf Moor

Juan Mata and Scott McTominay were among the away fans after the midfield duo were not included in the matchday squad.

A group of United fans flew a banner over Turf Moor before kick-off, criticising the cub’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, accusing him of failing to back Mourinho in the transfer market this summer.

This was United’s 10th clean sheet in their past 11 visits to Burnley.

This was Marouane Fellaini’s 250th Premier League game.

Burnley have now gone nine league matches without a win.

What’s next?

After the international break it’s more away days for Man Utd.

They face a tricky test when they travel to Watford and then head to Switzerland to open their Champions League campaign against Young Boys.

Then it’s back to Old Trafford a game against newly promoted Wolves.

Burnley now have no European exertions which may be a relief given the energy-sapping schedule of the Europa League tests even the best of squads.

They travel to Wolves on September 16 and host Bournemouth six days later.

 

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