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Top of the league, potent attack, slick football and a mean defence: Jose Mourinho appeared to discover a winning formula, but he neglected the tactics that have formed the foundation of United’s breathless start against Liverpool.
Last season United travelled to Anfield on the back of indifferent form as Mourinho sought to embed his identity and remove the staleness of the previous managerial influence – Louis van Gaal. They set up to defend and neutralise Liverpool’s attack. It worked.
The Red Devils became a back six when not in possession and dared Liverpool to work their way through a Mourinho constructed bus. Jurgen Klopp’s men lacked the invention, the enterprise and the guile to break down United’s defence.
It was a tedious affair and widely condemned. It was slightly understandable, though, and many, including myself, wrote it off as Mourinho simply understanding the limitations of his current squad.
This is why I was so buoyant, neigh optimistic, ahead of Saturday’s trip to Anfield. With United abreast at the top of the league with Manchester City, now was the time to seize the initiative and impose ourselves on an under confident Liverpool.
I expected United to be arrogant – like they were under Sir Alex Ferguson – and play the game the way they wanted to, regardless of the opposition.
When the sides were announced, still, I was confident: Ashley Young right wing was a warranted reward for the work he put in playing left-back before the international break. Indeed, he was United’s brightest attacking outlet and one of the few positives from the game.
Even after the first twenty minutes I thought United would settle into their rhythm and dictate the game, for there is invariably a spell at the start of the game where Liverpool, at home, are intense and furious in their play.
Went for the draw and it was frustrating
Soon, though, it was clear Mourinho had set his men up for a draw. Kudos, because he achieved it.
Yet as United fan, it was frustrating. United have been clinical on the attack this season and their play has packed a punch that it lacked for many years; it was the United of old. So, one cannot even write it off as typical Mourinho because he has orchestrated United’s well-oiled offensive movements thus far.
We need to be brave heading into these titanic clashes and Mourinho needs to trust his players to play the way they’ve played all season. It is by no means the end of the world and I still think the Reds have a good chance at the title, despite City’s mind-blowing annihilation of Stoke City.
I just wish Mourinho had “let the horses run free” as he told the press after his side’s 4-0 win away at Swansea back in August.
Written by Michael Jones
Follow Michael on Twitter @jonesmichael_97
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