Manchester United have moved into a strong position in the Premier League table and could be top within a week.
United’s game in hand against Burnley requires just a point to move the Red Devils above Liverpool ahead of the trip to Anfield.
It might not have been expected, but United are in a title battle. This is an opportunity for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to embrace.
Rival managers are not taking it so well. Enter Jose Mourinho and Jurgen Klopp.
Inside their heads
Mourinho and Klopp should be busy focusing on their own teams. Instead they are both consumed by the panic of an onrushing United steaming into the title race.
Predictably, Mourinho was the first to snap. He has been taking jibes at United for months, going back to his rant last season about the size of goalposts.
The Spurs manager took an apparent dig at United and Bruno Fernandes last week, quoted by the MEN: “Some players score 10 goals a season on penalties and I’m not speaking about Harry Kane, by the way.”
Kane has for the record scored five penalties for Tottenham this season. He should reach double figures by time the season is out at this rate.
Mourinho’s comments as often were illogical and illuminating to his state of mind. He can’t let United go after his sacking back in 2018.
He is not the only Premier League manager with United on the mind. Jurgen Klopp is cracking up.
When Liverpool lose, which has been annoying infrequent until lately, Klopp does not take it well. The defeat to Southampton on Monday night left him fuming at officials for denying his team a penalty.
Klopp ranted to Sky after the game: “I hear now that Manchester United had more penalties in two years than I had in five-and-a-half years. I’ve no idea if that’s my fault, or how that can happen.”
The Mail point out the inaccuracy of Klopp’s jibe. Liverpool have been awarded more penalties than any other team since he took over at Anfield.
What is fascinating is not the spot kicks. This is not an attempt on mind games on his part. He seems genuinely rattled amid his own team’s poor form and is somehow attempting to pin the blame on United.
United are inside his head. He knows the unexpected title threat is coming.
No pressure on Solskjaer
The pressure in this title race is not on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It’s a great position to be in.
As defending champions, Liverpool have the pressure. As do Manchester City and Pep Guardiola, and so does Jose ‘win now’ Mourinho. They are all expected to seize this moment and kick on.
Solskjaer is in this position on merit but nobody expected United to be this high up. It is an advantage, and also a compliment to the team that Liverpool and Tottenham are so rattled.
The task for Solskjaer is not to get drawn in if these are attempted mind games. The Norwegian needs to keep a calm head while his rivals are losing theirs.
There is a long way to go this season, just 16 of 38 games have been played so far. Solskjaer knows he cannot get ahead of himself. That’s also reason why he can’t waste time on feuding with rivals; let them expend their energy this way instead.
If he keeps his head while his rivals lose theirs, then it is ‘advantage Manchester United’.
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