Manchester United and the improved record against top six opposition

This was Manchester United’s record against top six opposition under Mourinho last season (2016/17):

Played 10. Won two. Lost four. Scored 7.

In all they accumulated a total of 10 points in 10 games. An abysmal record that contributed to United sitting bottom of the pile in the top six mini-league. However, with added fire power and astute game management, they have turned it around. It reads:

Games = 8. Wins = 5. Goals = 11. Goals scored = 16.

The near dramatic change in fortunes means Manchester United are second behind Manchester City and look far stronger than last season when they surrender meekly to quality teams. Against Liverpool, they gave initiative to Liverpool but with intelligent defending and ruthless finishing, Liverpool went home empty.

Mourinho has fostered a team that is pragmatic without looking like wealthy cowards. They may have spent money to improve their squad to help achieve this but that is the barest of minimum for a club of Man United’s stature. The mid-season unwaranted criticism will now begin to dissipate with Manchester United consolidating the second position.

Ashley Young

At 32, many in his stead would have chosen to leave the club and waddle in a less competitive league with more money and a chance at obscurity. However, while many have left the club post-Ferguson, Young has stayed back and bidden-ed his chance. With many options in attacking areas and with Luke Shaw not getting the trust and favour from Louis Van Gaal and then Mourinho, the former flying winger has plugged the gap at left back admirably.

On Saturday, he was one of the standout performers for Manchester United. While Rashford may have picked the man of the match gong, it was he who was quietly Man United’s best player. He kept Salah at arms’ length. Not many left backs can boast of that feat.

Whether Luke Shaw may get a chance to stake a claim in his spot is still uncertain. What is certain is that Young will continue to be one of the pillars of Mourinho’s army. For as long as he can.

Romelu Lukaku

The Belgian used his bulky frame to craft both goals, something he was brought in for. Lukaku may never have the silky feet of a Suarez or quickness of an Aguero but there’s one attribute which he has in spades which many lack: Power. He outmaneuvered Lovren twice to the ball from a long ball from the keeper which created chances for Rashford to finish with aplomb.

Marcus Rashford

No goals since December, and few starts since the coming of the messiah, Sanchez. What a way to force yourself back in your manager’s thoughts. Two quick-fire goals and Liverpool were down and out. Mourinho appraoched the game with a sound plan but he needed goals to bring it all together. Rashford duly obliged. Mourinho would be happy with the goals and the 20 year old’s attitude.


A fine win to help them up to 13th and pile the pressure on Mauricio Pellegrino. They are 8 steps away from being safe.


The Brazilian came to Stamford Bridge with little fan fare but those who saw him play saw what a talent he is. He was never given a chance, as is the case with many young talents at Stamford Bridge. He was taken his time to start a game in his more favoured attacking positions.

His two goals and all round encouraging display was enough for a standing ovation from the fans. It’ll do his confidence a whole lot of good.


Despite recent unrest among fans, they were never in danger of relegation but the performances were grating. Everton ploughed through most games looking lost, lacking any coherent plan and looking far below the sum of their parts. They may never warm up to Sam Allardyche but at least they have a good chance of finishing in the top half.


If the Algerian’s head was turned by Manchester’s City’s lavish promise of grander pastures, the former Player of the Season has once again retained focus on the job at hand. There are very few players who would turn down a chance to play for Pep Guardiola but with the outcome unfavourable for the 27 year old, he has continued playing with professional mien that has warmed the hearts of the Leicester faithful. If he departs, it will, certainly, be on good terms with the club and the fans.


From no wins in their last 12 to two straight wins in a row, Burnley have halted an uncomfortable poor run of from. From now here, they will look to finish as high as possible.


They could have done with more goals but the three points are welcome. They are now four points points off the top four. Suddenly, their chances of finishing in the Champions League places look feasible.


The past few weeks have seen Arsene Wenger come under a torrent of abuse and disdain from different quarters of self-imposed football Einsteins. Arsenal lost four games in a row in all competitions and look like drowned and out. The impressive win against AC Milan was welcome. Many expected them to lose the game but they did dig deep and came out victorious having withstood early pressure.

Against Watford, it was embarrassingly easy for Arsenal when the first goal went in. Troy Deeney, had pre-match, spoken of Arsenal’s fragile mental capacity. It proved not to be the case as Arsenal matched Watford power for power. The target remains the Europa league as their chances of finishing in the top four are all but done. However, they can use result such as this as a springboard for success in the Europa League.

It will also afford Arsene Wenger the chance to breathe easier.


Showed their mettle in coming back from a goal down to win 4-1 away to the Vitality Stadium. they were rattled early on as Bournemouth looked to exploit Spurs after disappointment in midweek against Juventus. No chance. Bournemouth will go home with their tails tucked firmly between their legs.

Son Heung-min

Is there a more likable Asian in the history of the Premier League? The South Korean was effervescent against Bournemouth as they won comfortably. He replaced the injured Harry Kane but Spurs didn’t miss a beat. The Korean is fast becoming a fan favourite as well as the manager’s dream player.

After a slow start to life in England, he’s taken the competition by storm. His hard running style and forceful dribbles have become a vital ingredient in the way Spurs play. The work rate he puts in most games is just phemonemal. every team needs a Son by their side. Tottenham will be giggling that they have just the one.



With the chance to finish ahead of their bitter rivals and stake claim to the second spot, they bottled it. Yes they did. Manchester United were good, very good, but that doesn’t account for the tameness in their play in the first half. they did recover to a decent level but the damage was done. They never looked like equalizing let alone winning the game. Kloop played right into Mourinho’s hands as he played a suicidal high line in a bid to find holes in the United’s defence.

They have played well enough this season to record improvement from last season but, boy, did they miss their chance to do one over Manchester United in their back yard. Now they have to look over their shoulders for Chelsea.

Liverpool’s record against top six opposition

Last season, Liverpool were the prima donna of the top six. They amassed 20 points from 10 game against Man United, Man City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal. Their albatross was their inability to break unwilling defences down. However, it seems to be going the opposite this season. While they have fared reasonably well against lesser teams, the former frightening power they had against their rivals has dissipated. In 9 games against the top six, they can only boast of 11 points, a far cry from their tally last season.

This means their meeting against Chelsea on the fifth of May is of utmost importance if they are to play in the Champions League next season.

Dejan Lovren

A bad day at the office for the Croatian. He didn’t track Lukaku for the first goal and allowed the powerful Belgian to thread through to Sanchez for the second. He has redeemed himself somewhat from that horror show against Tottenham earlier in the season. If He is to retain the trust of his manager, he needs to put in better performances than the one on display at Old Trafford.

Mauricio Pellegrino  

It’s going to be a real shame if Southampton go down this year. They have an interestingly decent roster of players. They should be doing far better than flirting with relegation. They are just one point from the relegation spot in 17th. He’s had his chance to turn things around. It’s either he’s lost his dressing room or his methods are not fully communicated to the players. Either way, he has failed in his objective.

This is a team lacking any sort of motivation to succeed. The buck stops and starts at the manager’s feet. Pellegrino has no one to blame.

West Brom and Alan Pardew 

Baring a bizarre miracle, West Brom are going down to the Championship. The atmosphere at The Hawthorns is that of resignation. Alan Pardew doesn’t have an excuse. He has been in charge for well over a dozen games for the Baggies, he can’t blame lack of games for a lack of momentum. Carvalhal at Swansea is doing a far better job with less talent than he has.

The signing of Daniel Sturridge never quite worked out. Johnny Evans have looked less than authoritative since the rumours of Arsenal and Man City interest were made public.

It remains to be seen if the Pardew remains as manager in the second tier or even till the end of the season.

West Ham

It stinks, doesn’t it?

Remember that time David Moyes was brilliant and seen as the right choice for West Ham? It’s since change since then. Three defeats and 11 goals conceded later, West Ham look anything like a happy place. The three gal defeat to Burnley hurt but what followed is just evidence of the notoriety of West Ham fans. They have nurtured a reputation as the most violent, unruly fans in England. This one takes it up a notch.

There were pitch invasions, crowd trouble and near lynching of the owners who scampered to safety. After a decent run of results under Moyes, things seem relatively calm, however, their insipid performance on the pitch has stretched fans to breaking point. There will be a board meeting to acertain what the next step would be. But would the FA punish West Ham for not being able to control their fans?

Points deduction at this stage could spark more riots, and we don’t want to see grown men break stuff up in fitful rage. Or do we?

Bournemouth and the ‘i can’t hold on to a lead’ syndrome 

Bournemouth have lost 19 points from winning positions this season, the highest of any premier league club this season. If they had taken a quarter of that number, they would be level on points with Everton, sitting pretty in mid table. Instead, they are 12th with some uncertainty over their premier league status. They have looked dangerous at time when behind but to falter when ahead shows a lack of game management and focus from the manager down to the players. The problem has to be identified and worked on if they are to finish in a decent position in the table.

Troy Deeney

Two goals down and with a perfect chance of an equalizer, Deeney promptly sent the ball Petr Cech’s way which lead to an Arsenal comfortable win. After shredding Arsenal’s mental stability pre-match, he was handed the initiative to make true his pre-game comments. He threw it away. Cue the jeers and laughter around The Emirates.

I wouldn’t want to be Troy Deeney right now. Not for all the women in Columbia.

Anthony Knockaert

The game at Goddison park was pretty much uneventful until Anthony Knockaert entered a red mist. He felt the referee hadn’t given a foul on Baines after the leftback had smacked the ball into his face. He then, retaliated by going in two footed on Baines like a crazed lunatic. The one man disadvantage didn’t help Brighton’s cause. Everton went on to win the game. He’ll be prepared for whatever punishment the FA deem fit.

A proper loser in every sense of the word.


Michael Okoye
Blogger/Football Analyst at Sportskick
Michael Okoye is an ardent football fan as well as a writer. He lives somewhere in West Africa with Lions and Leopards for company. He takes interest in football and detests mediocrity in sports writing. He has a massive man crush on Juan Mata. A Chelsea fan and a great lover of wits and sarcasm.
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