Manchester United-Huddersfield Town Preview
One gets the sense that Jose Mourinho knew how much of a grind it would be for Manchester United coming out of the international break based on how prickly he's been with the media.
Get a result, then get a show. That said, United look to gain ground on their eternal rivals at the top of the table Saturday when they face Huddersfield Town at John Smith's Stadium.
United (6-2-0) dropped two points behind Manchester City for the Premier League lead after Saturday's scoreless draw at Liverpool, a contest Mourinho labeled as "just another match" leading up to the high-profile contest. Ahead of their Champions League match at Benfica, Mourinho caused another stir by lavishing praise on how Paris Saint-Germain has built their squad and said that while he wants to coach at least another 15 seasons, Old Trafford will not be his final stop.
"If in this moment I want to finish my career in two, three, four or five years, yes, my ambition is to end my career at Manchester United," he said flatly Tuesday. "I think I'm going to be here 15 years minimum in football, in the job, and I think it's impossible to stay 17 years in the same club. It's an impossible mission even if you try."
Nearing the halfway mark of his three-year deal, United then all but assured themselves passage to the knockout round of the Champions League by beating Benfica 1-0 on Wednesday to maintain their 100 percent mark in group play with three wins and nine points. Marcus Rashford provided the lone goal of the match on a free kick in the 64th minute that 18-year-old Benfica goalkeeper Mike Svilar caught but carried over the line due to his momentum.
After Mourinho offered public praise and encouragement for Svilar - the youngest goalkeeper ever to play a Champions League match - he then turned on the media who have decried the pragmatic nature of United's last two matches after they had scored 32 goals in their first 10 contests.
"Not that I read it a lot, but sometimes when I read the press, not only English but Portuguese, I feel that sometimes defending properly is seen as a crime but it is not," said Mourinho, whose team did not yield a shot on target. "That's why we controlled the game because we defended properly and the goal was not against the current of the game, but we end up ending the game and we are almost qualified so that's it."
Win the match, win the post-game media scrum. Some things never truly change with Mourinho.
Saturday's match, though, allows United the chance to re-ignite their offence. After all, Romelu Lukaku has now gone 184 minutes without a goal after bagging 11 in his first 10 matches with the Red Devils including the Community Shield. And playmaker Henrikh Mikhitaryan has gone 277 minutes without a goal or assist since his marker capped United's Champions League 4-1 rout of CSKA Moscow on Sept. 27.
And with United playing a promoted side on the road, there will inevitably be comparisons of their performance against Manchester City's season-opening 2-0 victory at Brighton & Hove Albion in which Pep Guardiola's team had 73 percent possession but did not break down the stubborn Gulls until the 70th minute.
Huddersfield Town (2-3-3) continue to scrap through the early part of their first season in the top-flight since 1972. The Terriers have scored just one goal in the last six league matches (0-3-3) since their dream start of two wins in as many matches, and will be hard-pressed to end a scoring drought that has reached 314 minutes since Laurent Depoitre's goal early in the second half of a 1-1 draw versus Leicester City on Sept. 16.
Yet, last Saturday's 2-0 loss at Swansea City felt like an opportunity lost for Huddersfield, who conceded goals to Tammy Abraham on either side of halftime due to a lack of focus. In the first half, keeper Jonas Lossl was at fault for the first goal in the 42nd minute, then the defence let down Lossl as Abraham had an easy tap-in on 48 minutes to double the lead.
"I don't think we were brave enough," midfielder and American international Danny Williams told HTTV+ after the match. "(David Wagner) told us before the game that we needed to be brave to silence the crowd. We then gave some errors away and in this division you get punished; that was a big lesson for us."
The 30 minutes Williams logged was his first action after missing a month due to a foot injury. First-choice midfielder Aaron Mooy should be available for the full 90 minutes after playing 45 following his helping of Australia reach a World Cup playoff against Honduras.
Manager David Wagner is waiting on the availability of Steve Mounie, who scored two of Huddersfield's five goals in their season-opening 3-0 win at Crystal Palace.
Mourinho expects Phil Jones to return to his back line, but Eric Bially may be held out as he recovers from a knock. Rashford was lifted after complaining of a knock to his knee, which means Anthony Martial may move into the starting XI. Midfielders Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba remain question marks.
The sides have not met since Huddersfield's final season in the First Division as United did the double in 1971-72. The Red Devils are unbeaten in their last 11 across all competitions (8-3-0) against the Terriers since a 3-2 loss in 1952 in which Jimmy Glazzard bagged a brace and Vic Metcalfe scored from the spot at Leeds Road.
Updated October 19, 2017