“We are struggling,” says Conte

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is eager to see his team respond from Tuesday night’s 3-0 Champions League defeat to Roma.

Speaking ahead of Monday morning’s match with Manchester United, Conte has called for his players to show character through a time of adversity.

“We are struggling a lot, because we are facing a lot of important problems,” Conte said.

“To solve these problems is not simple. In this moment you can see it you are a winner or a loser.“

“It’s important to show character, to be strong, to face the problem in the right way.”

Conte said he will try to transfer his suffering to the players in the quest of turning the Blues fortunes around.

“I try to transfer my suffering to my players. Sometimes I am able to do this, to have a good answer.”

The Blues sit nine points behind top of the table Manchester City in the Premier League and defeat to Manchester United this weekend will make defending their championship all the more difficult.

But Conte insists he is happy with the commitment of his players.

“I’m happy to work with my players. The commitment is always good but this season we are struggling a lot because we are facing a lot of problems and resolving these problems is not simple.”

The Blues will host a Manchester United team that includes former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and former player Nemanja Matic.

Last year Mourinho criticised Conte for trying to humiliate him, after Chelsea’s 4-0 victory over the Red Devils.

Conte refused to add to the animosity when asked about his relationship with Mourinho.

“It’s not important, the relationship between the coaches. We have to respect the job of the other coaches.”

“He’s an opponent and I’m an opponent for him. After the game it will be the same.”

Conte will be hoping for the return of midfielder N’golo Kante for the weekends match.

Kante has been sidelined for six matches in all competitions since picking up a hamstring injury on national duty in early October.

Conte said Kante is “progressing well”, but will not risk the midfielder if there is any chance of reinjuring his hamstring.



Squad rotation for FA Cup says Mourinho

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has confirmed he will be rotating his squad for United’s FA Cup tie against Reading.

Mourinho has guaranteed starting spots for goalkeeper Sergio Romero and captain Wayne Rooney, but has also predicted more changes to preserve his squad’s fitness, ahead of some important January fixtures.

Rotations to the team could see Bastian Schweinsteiger start for the first time in almost a year.

Schweinsteiger was frozen out of the squad by Mourinho at the start of the season but in recent months has regained his spot at training and made a four minute cameo as a sub against West Ham in the EFL Cup in November.

“He’s selected again so he can start, he can be on the bench. He’s an option for us,” said Mourinho.

“I think that’s the best way to describe it, for many months he wasn’t an option, when we brought him back in the first couple of weeks he was not an option, not ready to compete but since then working very well, never an injury, he was ill last week. His body is fine, is training very well, he’s ready to play.”

Luke Shaw also looks set to be handed a starting spot after missing eight games with a groin injury.

Mourinho has publicly criticised the 21-year-old on two occasions this season; the first being for his part in Watford’s second goal against United at Vicarage Road and again when he said the defender was “not in the condition” to play against Swansea in October.

Marcus Rashford looks set to be given an opportunity to play in his preferred striking position, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be given a break after a chaotic festive season.

Exciting prospect Timothy Fosu-Mensah also has a chance of a rare starting appearance and with his versatility, could play either in midfield, full back or centre back.

The 19-year-old made 10 appearances for United last season but under Mourinho he has only started two games in the EFL Cup and in the Europa League.

Two players who will not partake in the game will be Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay, as both are seeking to leave the club in the January transfer period.

Schneiderlin looks set to re-join former coach Ronald Koeman at Everton and the Toffees are also said to be interested in signing Depay.

“Their situation is exactly the same,” Mourinho clarified. “I will allow them to leave the club, I will allow them to leave if the right offer comes and until this moment, no.

“We are waiting for something that a couple of weeks ago looked 100 per cent. In this moment, it looks like zero per cent because we don’t have any offer that is close to the quality the players have.”

Jose not to blame for Manchester United’s failures

Another day and another poor performance by Manchester United. A nil-all draw to Burnley at home, in a game where United created 37 shots on goal.

While the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and even Liverpool seem to play attractive football week after week, United struggle to find a scoring and passing rhythm.

It seems to be a recurring theme for United in the past four years since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

So what is it that is making Manchester United struggle?

Surely it isn’t all Jose Mourinho’s fault because it began prior to his time at the club.

Under David Moyes the club had an ageing list that required rejuvenation but not to an overdramatic proportion. Unfortunately for Moyes, he had the inexperienced Ed Woodward running the transfer business and his incompetence to land targets never gave Moyes a fair chance at succeeding.

Watching Moyes on the touchline was like watching the Titanic sink. No matter how hard he tried, Moyes had little chance of succeeding because the players he inherited didn’t support his philosophies that were only proven to succeed at mid-table clubs.

While the players didn’t support Moyes, Moyes himself must take some of the blame for his failures. Moyes sacked long standing United assistance, Mike Phelan and Rene Meulensteen, in favour of his right hand men from Everton Steve Round and Jimmy Lumsden.

The change in coaching staff was the start of Moyes’ demise because the United players who were once training to compete with the likes of Carles Puyol and Xavi were now at training being compared to Phil Jagielka.

While Moyes’ demise was the result of the players and his own failure to change, Louis Van Gaal’s failed tenure at United was solely due to his own misgivings.

Van Gaal had an agenda to change the entire playing list and culture at the club. While some coaches would have looked at the success the club achieved in 2012/13 when they won the title in Ferguson’s final year, Van Gaal still believed the club needed a dramatic overhaul to become successful.

In his first year, Van Gaal sold and loaned out Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Shinji Kagawa, Danny Welbeck, Darren Fletcher, Nani, Tom Cleverly and Javier Hernandez.

All nine players featured prominently in Ferguson’s final season and many were considered leaders at the club.

Van Gaal’s ruthless player turnover tore the heart out of the club and the lack of leadership on the field was the result of many of United’s lacklustre performances during the Van Gaal era.

So now to the Jose Mourinho era, which hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts. Why are United continuing to struggle under the self proclaimed ‘Special One’?

Mourinho’s first problem is the playing list. Mourinho has said countless times that he is happy with his playing list but in reality Mourinho would wish he had inherited Ferguson’s squad.

Mourinho has a squad of players purchased by three different managers. Having a squad of players from three different managers results in dysfunctional performances and a lack of balance, which is evident in many of United’s performances. Mourinho needs time to work out which players are required and which do not fit his philosophy.

Another key reason for Mourinho’s lack of success is the amount individuals in the team.

Liverpool, Tottenham and Leicester’s recent success is due to the team playing as a team, with players working for one another. At United there is a sense of players playing for themselves instead of for the team.

A lack of pressing and covering for players is a reason the team has struggled so far this season and were smashed 4-0 by Chelsea.

Only Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford have shown any heart for the club, while the likes of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marouane Fellaini play every week but seem to be sponging off the clubs finances.

There is no ‘I’ in team and the quicker Mourinho realises there is no time for individuals, the quicker the success will return to the Theatre of Dreams.

Jose Mourinho and Manchester United: A love story without a happy ending

Manchester United supporters be aware. What you say now might come back to bite in three years, or even less.

Since Chelsea’s sacking of Jose Mourinho, United fans appreciation of ‘The Special One’ has increased, with many supporters believing he is the man to return the club to it’s past glory, while UK media have all but confirmed he will be managing United next season.

But for United supporters expecting the return of the Manchester United philosophy, prepare to be disappointed.

Jose doesn’t fill this expectation.

Current manager, Louis Van Gaal has been criticised by fans for implementing a philosophy, consisting of over possession, slow build up play and limited shots on goal.

Van Gaal has also been condemned for spending more than 200 million pounds on players who don’t fit into his system or don’t fit the standards of a Manchester United player.

Mourinho was Van Gaal’s assistant at Barcelona in the late 1990’s and it seems to have taken some of Van Gaal’s habits with him.

Jose Mourinho hates to lose and will do anything to prevent it from happening, including banishing any attacking play from his team.

Mourinho is recognised for playing defensive football, otherwise known as ‘parking the bus’, in crucial games against strong opposition.

Manchester United supporters have attacked Van Gaal and his predecessor David Moyes for their defensive tactics, so it would be ironic for them to support Mourinho.

Manchester United is built on a rich history of promoting players from their illustrious academy. Whether it is the Busby Babes or Fergie’s Fledglings, United’s reliance on academy prospects is outstanding.

Mourinho does not have a reputation of playing youngsters, instead preferring to splash the cash on ready-made players.

Chelsea had some of the most exciting young prospects in their academy during Mourinho’s second stint at the club, yet he still refused to experiment with his side.

At United this could be a different story. Mourinho knows the tradition the club has with its academy and he may feel inclined to give youth a chance, but on the other hand may continue with his tried and tested philosophy.

For all the negativity that comes with Mourinho, there are also some positives.

Mourinho has won 21 trophies in his career, which includes titles in four separate countries (Portugal, England, Italy & Spain) and has won the Champions League on two occasions.

Manchester United have gone three years without any silverware and will be looking to end the draught as quickly as possible.

Dancing with the devil may be United’s only hope of recapturing the success of the past, but if all goes astray, then it will end ugly.