There were great expectations before Sunday’s Manchester Derby. But what transpired on the pitch didn’t live up to the billing.
Even though, it didn’t turn out to be as mind-numbingly boring as the 0-0 draw between Liverpool and Man United, the game still disappointed in the amount of contest and entertaining football it provided. And that is mainly due to United’s unreasonably cautious approach.
Mourinho’s side contains incredible young talents like Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, one of the best strikers in the league in Romelu Lukaku and all the means to go head to head against a Man City side who is not far superior in terms of individual quality. But United only managed to start attacking after David Silva’s goal in the 43rd minute.
They only had 26% of the possession in the first 45 minutes and 35% during the entirety of the game. Those stats are the marks of a small team going up against a giant. Even then it can be acceptable if your game plan is to hit your opponents on the counter but the Red Devils didn’t trouble Ederson one bit before the aforementioned goal.
Man United went into Sunday’s game 8 points behind their noisy neighbours and in need of a win to revive their title hopes. That is why it made little to no sense why United were playing like they needed a 0-0 draw or as if they’re facing the Barcelona side of 2011.
Mourinho has been heavily criticized for his ‘negative’ approach to big games which only allowed him to grab a single away point against the ‘top six’ as Man United manager.
That was until his 3-1 triumph against Arsenal. The game clouded a huge defect in United’s team and Arsenal’s suicidal defending gave Jose something to gloat about. And after his 1-0 win against Tottenham, Mourinho took a dig at fans and pundits who questioned his game plan. But that didn’t last long and the Portuguese is once again coming under fire.
People who defend him try to make the case that Sir Alex’s United side didn’t always play free flowing football against their opponents.
While that remains true great United teams of that era broke away at great pace to punish their opponents in the counter. Be it knocking Arsenal out of the Champions League Semi Final in 2009, the away win against Liverpool thanks to a lone Tevez goal in 2007 and countless other huge games, Sir Alex has been tactically spot on more often than not.
The problem with Mourinho’s football is not only that it is uninspiring it is also because it is not bearing any fruits. His team are now 11 points behind City and it will take a series of unfortunate events happening to Guardiola’s side for another team to even have a shot at winning the league.
Instead of conceding defeat and accepting his tactical mistakes Mourinho keeps making excuses and ignore the nakedly visible issues in his team. He took a dig at City for the ‘disgraceful’ goals they scored and moaned over the penalty Man United were denied. This is nothing but a mere deflection. As Pep Guardiola rightly pointed out City won because they were better. Simple as that!
That’s not to say City weren’t without their problems. Most of their players including Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane were far from looking sharp. Who knows what the score might have been if they didn’t make poor last touches?
The big appeal of Mourinho’s appointment at United was that he knows how to win, but when you manage one of England’s big clubs that simply isn’t enough. His character is also another problem that might cut his tenure at the Theatre of Dreams short. The bust up in the dressing room after the derby raises this same question.
Barney Ronay summed the incident well on his article for The Guardian.
‘At first glance the most startling aspect of the Manchester derby tunnel fracas is the fact it seems to have been kicked off by José Mourinho knocking on the dressing room door and going toe-to-toe with Manchester City’s players. Hearing this, you wondered: why now? The fronting-up, the ballsiness, the stick-it–to-them bravado. Where was all this an hour and a half ago when the score was 0-0 and there was still a match to be won?’
Even former Man United manager Louis Van Gaal is questioning Mourinho. The Dutch manager said ‘I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Mourinho plays so defensive.’
That’s a big statement coming from a manager who was also labelled as a boring manager during his stay at Man United. Although this was in regards to possession based football with little desire to put the ball forward it led fans to chant ‘Attack, Attack, Attack’. The same happened in Sunday’s game.
Man United can turn to the Champions League in their quest for a title but that will be a very hard task. Although they will be facing Sevilla in the last 16, who are being labelled a good opponent for Mourinho’s side, the games after that will get tougher.
And with his inability to find a winning formula against the big teams Mourinho may be facing the exit door come the end of the season.
Written by Brook Genene
Follow Brook on Twitter @brookge
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