The media has decided to take initiative for the football world and rule Manchester United out of the title race, with 29 matches still to play, despite the fact United only trails by six points, the amount by which they trailed Manchester City with six games to play last season and reduced the gap (though losing on goal difference). After a rough start and the round-up of media criticism, United fans and the club, in general, seems to be in a relatively low tone and persona, looking for a way to get back to the top as quickly as possible. In an extremely competitive season, one in which seven teams are fighting at the top of the table, United should not fall behind, and Burnley manager Sean Dyche doesn’t believe they will.
Ahead of Burnley’s clash with Manchester United on Saturday, Dyche’s press conference was filled with nothing but respect for the side United is building, and Dyche wasn’t hesitant to state his belief that the Red Devils could be challenging for the title this season. Crediting Jose Mourinho, the playing staff and the club’s overall operation, Dyche sees no reason as to why United shouldn’t be near the top of the table come the end of the season.
“For all the noise that’s been made about the ups and downs of Manchester United over the past couple of weeks, they’re still a fine side. I look at the manager, the club, the players they’ve got and they’re still a super strong group of people operating at the highest level. I’d be very surprised if this group of players is not still a very, very strong group and a group to be reckoned with over the course of the season.”
Dyche noted that it’s always a challenge at first to find a collective goal and a way of working toward it, noting the “challenge” Mourinho has to get the squad fully operating. He also pointed out what we have all been thinking, which is that United’s new manager still needs to pick his best team, a real dilemma considering the sheer depth of talent currently at Mourinho’s disposal.
“No matter who you are it’s still a challenge to get a new group and get it to operate how you want it to operate. I think [Mourinho] will still be piecing together what his top team is and how he wants them to operate. I don’t know him but I can imagine he’s doing that.
“The players likewise, getting used to different ways of playing and training, different things he wants from them. Sometimes it’s hand in glove and it happens very, very quickly, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Elaborating on his interesting theory about players adapting to the new manager, Dyche applied his explanation to the likes of Jurgen Klopp, Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola at Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City, respectively, and looked at the struggles they faced and continue to face, while taking a jab at the constant unnecessary pressure these managers are on.
“Look at Jurgen Klopp going into Liverpool, I don’t think that was instant there. Antonio Conte three weeks ago was getting questioned, wins two big games – a big one against Manchester United – and the questions disappear. Pep Guardiola is being spoken about as being on his worst run in, probably, ever. He’s still finding out how it works. These are top, top people with top players but I just think it takes time.”
Regardless of the respect, he has for United, though, Dyche will undoubtedly relish the prospect of three points at Old Trafford this season. Burnley will be targeting 40 points, and grabbing a win at Manchester United would be a feat most of the Clarets’ relegation rivals wouldn’t be able to achieve. That being said, one can only hope he wants it no more than Mourinho’s men ahead of a clash that could end up being worth watching.