After a fortnight-long international break and many World Cup qualifiers in between, it is time for the Premier League. Manchester United are back in action on Saturday afternoon. Following opening three wins, Jose Mourinho and his team will visit Stoke in a match that could mean a lot more than mere three points.
Do not be fooled, three points are always very important. Yet, Manchester United could really earn a lot more from it in tougher to measure categories. One of them is ‘the fear’ category – strong start of the season from the Reds already is bringing that back. Manchester United missed being feared since the Sir Alex Ferguson days. Symbolically, another era could kick start this Saturday.
Staying Top Of The League
First and most obvious – should Manchester United win at Stoke, they will remain ahead of all other 19 Premier League clubs. Not that it is the most crucial thing this early into the season, yet it could prove quite important. A really strong start beyond opening three matches could mean a nice stockpile of points while other teams struggle.
Manchester City and Liverpool will face each other and at least one team will lose points. Arsenal and Tottenham are still fragile after a slow start. Chelsea seemed good after a loss against Burnley but Leicester are always unpredictable.
A win at Stoke would give the team good platform before Basel come to Manchester this coming week. Mourinho already talked about not having enough time with the players since the international break ended. That is why an away win in these circumstances is even more important.
The Britannia Fizzles
Then there is that “away at Stoke on a rainy Tuesday night” phrase. Of course, this will only be “away at Stoke”, but it still proves to be a problematic trip for Manchester United. Stoke have not lost to Man United in last four matches at the Britannia stadium. They have managed to win twice and draw as many times.
To be precise, United’s last win at Stoke was in December 2013, in a League Cup match. Looking only at the Premier League, it was April of the same year, when Ferguson was still in charge. It is the right time to change this. A win at Stoke at this moment in time could really mean Man United are not joking this season. Matches like these are where the title are being won and Mourinho is fully aware of that.
Mourinho’s Stamp Is There
The “second season syndrome” is what everyone is talking about when Mourinho reaches the second year at any club. Manchester United are not any different, especially since their last Premier League title came in 2013.
So, what is Jose Mourinho’s trademark when he is winning national championships? It is the strong defensive record. In his first two seasons in the Premier League (2004-05 and 2005-06), Chelsea conceded 37 goals in 76 matches. They won both titles, of course.
Mourinho won eight national championships in four different countries and not once have his teams conceded more than a goal per game in those seasons. Precisely, 212 goals conceded in 296 matches during those eight seasons at Porto, Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid. That is 0,71 goals per match conceded.
Manchester United are on a good path so far. They have not conceded in 270 minutes of Premier League football. Last season, they conceded just 29 goals (Mourinho won four league titles in his career conceding more than 29 goals in the process) but their poor attacking record undermined them.
Now, Mourinho and his squad have a nice opportunity to change that. Stoke is the first of many challenges.