Premier League W2W4: Manchester United’s comeback under Jose Mourinho to end at City?
Ahead of each round of fixtures in the Premier League, W2W4 looks at the main storylines to keep an eye on.
Can Jose Mourinho’s United comeback extend to the Manchester derby?
It’s been a weird time to be a Manchester United fan. If you believed the papers ahead of the game against Newcastle a month ago, Jose Mourinho was going to lose his job regardless of what happened. Yet, he’s still here — despite his side going 2-0 down in that game before a late winner sealed a miraculous 3-2 comeback.
Now, after another late comeback at Juventus in midweek — one so impressive it even stopped everyone talking about Cristiano Ronaldo’s wonder goal — people are starting to murmur about United’s heroics in the same breath as the great Sir Alex Ferguson’s teams of old.
That’s a bit much, but there’s certainly a renewed energy around Old Trafford at the moment with the club having lost just one game in their last seven (to Juve, at Old Trafford). The problem is that they haven’t actually kept a clean sheet since Oct. 2 and they face a Manchester City side who have scored 12 goals in their last two games (and 23 goals in their last six). Oh, and City have not lost since Sept. 19 either.
City have some distractions themselves — namely the Football Leaks allegations and continuing talk about Financial Fair Play — so surely this is where Mourinho’s comeback comes to an end. But then again, United completed another one of those patented comebacks to win on their last visit to the Etihad.
Leicester game to be full of emotion
Leicester City will return to the King Power for the first time since owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four others were killed in a helicopter crash outside the stadium two weeks ago. The players and staff have been on a 12,000 mile journey to attend his funeral in Bangkok, with the match against Burnley on Saturday probably the last thing on their minds.
The players will wear special shirts for the game and both teams will wear black armbands. Though manager Claude Puel understandably has found preparations tough.
“It’s not easy to prepare [for] this game,” he told a news conference. “The emotion, no consistency in training sessions. I think our togetherness gives us a good energy and fantastic strength. Our spirit, positive attitude and all the support from our fans will be important.”
Barkley will want to impress vs. boyhood club Everton
When Ross Barkley was signed by Chelsea for £15m in January, there were plenty of people who thought the Blues had got a wonderful deal. Especially as he had been worth a reported £40m a few months earlier. Then, when he didn’t settle immediately, the consensus seemed to flip overnight — suddenly it was obvious that the Blues had overpaid.
Barkley has started Chelsea’s last two Premier League games and starred against Burnley, but there will be no game more important to him than when he faces his boyhood club. Now he’s in arguably the form of his life, he should be a certain starter. And if not for that reason, then because he’s basically a scout too.
“I’m not nervous, I’m excited to play against my former club and team-mates,” he told Sky Sports. “I understand how some of them play, so that could be an advantage for me.”
Will Slavisa Jokanovic be sacked?
When you’re on a run of six defeats in a row, sit bottom of the table and have conceded more goals than any other team in the Premier League this season, the last thing you want is a trip to Anfield. Add to that the fact Liverpool are still unbeaten in the league this season, and are only two points off top spot, and Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic would be forgiven for wanting to stay in bed.
But Liverpool’s shock defeat to Red Star Belgrade has given the Cottagers hope. Jokanovic’s job may depend on it, with former England and Chelsea midfielder Scott Parker (currently a coach at Craven Cottage) linked with taking over.
Sorry Saturday and Super Sunday
The move to give clubs more time to rest before playing in the Champions League has thrown up some interesting Saturday fixtures in the Premier League over the past few years — days when it feels like every team on planet earth is playing between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m. GMT.
But the knock-on effects for the weekends after Europe has had its fun are equally intriguing and there is no better example that what is coming up.
For those fans of the “Big Six,” Tottenham are the only team of note on Saturday and they don’t play until the late kickoff. Meanwhile, Liverpool, then Chelsea, are the preview to a Manchester Derby which also has Arsenal against Wolves on at the same time.
Football media loves terms like “Super Sunday” to increase the hype, but it’s about time there was one for the other end of the spectrum too.