Coach Komphela starts United’s third era of the season

2014-02-05 00:00

MARITZBURG United begin their third new era of the season tonight when they take to the field under coach Steve Komphela for the first time in a PSL clash against Tuks in Pretoria.

Komphela replaced Clinton Larsen as coach early last month, with United’s final game under the former Bloemfontein Celtic mentor a 2-2 draw with Mamelodi Sundowns on December 20.

Komphela has had roughly a month to work with his new squad, and he has brought a new sense of optimism to a side that is languishing dangerously close to the relegation places just three points off the bottom of the table.

“A month is not enough time in football to change a philosophy,” Komphela admitted to The Witness yesterday just before the team left for Pretoria.

“We have been trying to accelerate the learning process, and from what we have seen we are quite comfortable at the moment.”

United will go into today’s match without the injured Robyn Johannes, Ashley Hartog, Peter Petersen and Bandile Shandu. This means that the centre-half combination of Mohamed Awal and Mario Booysen will be tested once more, and that is an area where Komphela feels United must be at their very best.

“I am expecting lots of direct bombardment from them [Tuks] and our centre backs must be ready for that,” said Komphela, a former Bafana Bafana captain and caretaker coach. “Every match from now on will be full of confrontation. We need players with belief who are prepared to put their bodies on the line, and I feel that we have gotten this message across to the players.”

Nobody in the United dressing room epitomises that mentality more than captain Michael Morton. And Komphela appears set to keep the central midfielder on as team leader despite his impending move to SuperSport United at the end of the season. “Michael is a professional and we are all professionals. He is still contracted to Maritzburg United and we will use him until the very last second,” the coach said.

The major problem for United in their 15 matches so far this season has been in front of goal, and they have found the net just 12 times all season. Even more concerning is that only one of those strikes came courtesy of the club’s premier striker Mohamed Yakubu.

“Every player has a process of adaptation when they join a new league,” said Komphela. “That process is still ongoing with him [Yakubu].”

The Team of Choice squad is now one that has been moulded by three sculptures already this season, and Komphela’s influence will surely not be seen immediately. He needs time to stamp his mark on the squad, but the situation is a desperate one and results must be the priority.

With the transfer season now over, Komphela will be looking at securing United’s PSL status as first priority.

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