Tactics at Anfield indicate Jose Mourinho may not be right for Manchester United
This season has been about Jurgen Klopp and the “gegenpressing” he has instilled into his Liverpool squad. However, an overcrowded midfield meant Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United were able to stifle the home team’s style Monday night.football Updated: Oct 18, 2016 22:40 IST
This season has been about Jurgen Klopp and the “gegenpressing” he has instilled into his Liverpool squad. However, an overcrowded midfield meant Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United were able to stifle the home team’s style Monday night.
Mourinho’s tactic worked well. But, Manchester United is one of the biggest clubs in the world. And it us unfortunate to see a team that has spent over 100 million pounds in the summer transfer park the bus in front of goal, a Mourinho trademark.
The Portuguese coach used to employ the tactic earlier in his coaching career, first at Chelsea and then at Inter. But these were two teams who had gone for so long without winning a title that the fans were willing to overlook the boring style of play. But Manchester United fans are different.
Which is why Mourinho may not be the right person for United. When the football becomes boring, the followers either fade away or start baying for the manager’s head, a la Tony Pulis at Stoke.
Which is not to say that results don’t matter — any Arsenal fan can testify to that — but what sells tickets at the Emirates Stadium is the entertaining football that the London team plays.
Manchester United have always been about getting the right balance between entertainment and results, especially under Sir Alex Ferguson. Even under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, the results may not have been what Old Trafford were used to, but the matches were entertaining.
Under Mourinho, though, not only are the results missing — United are currently seventh in the table — the football has been dull.
The Liverpool–United match could have been the perfect game for Mourinho to prove otherwise. However, the game, billed as one of the biggest clashes in the Premier League, turned into a damp squib.
The warning signs were there when Mourinho named his starting XI. Juan Mata, who had been the most creative player for United in the last two or three games, was on the bench. It was clear the visitors were going to lie low.
Most of the first half was forgettable, and though the first 10 minutes or so of the second half seemed promising, the match relapsed into what was essentially two teams scared of making a mistake.
The big-name players too were missing. With 54 minutes on the clock, Paul Pogba, who had been completely anonymous during the game, and would continue to be so, had a moment of brilliance. He managed to slip past a couple of Liverpool players and whip in a cross to the far post, where Zlatan Ibrahimovic was unmarked. With only Loris Karius to beat from around six yards out, Ibrahimovic somehow managed to make a complete mess of the header.
And that, incredibly, was the only time Manchester United seriously threatened the Liverpool goal in the entire match.