The Duality of Man(chester United)

Growing up watching Manchester United under Sir Alex was a dream.  A treat.  An undeserved dessert.  Getting to watch legends like Rooney, Ronaldo, Giggs, Scholes, Rio, Vidic and fricking Dimitar Berbatov week in and week out made me fall in love with the English Premier League and Manchester United.  Now Manchester United is in a new age.  No more Fergie time, no more home grown legends (except Messi Lingard and Rashy).   It’s Jose time and Manchester United has changed its identity.

 So basically in the three years before Jose Mourinho arrived in Manchester, the team was led by flaccid dildos like David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal (risky click of the week).  It went about as well as you would expect, so obviously all the red wearing Manchester fans were siked to sign a world class manager.  Jose.  Mourinho.  The Special One.  A manager who has won a title with every club he’s coached.  We knew that his style and tactics were different, but he was a seasoned, successful coach, so obviously with the record signing of Pogba in his first summer and then Lukaku the next, expectations were high.  The real question is is United playing to these expectations? And I guess the answer is…..kinda.

Manchester United under Mourinho has enormous potential to be entertaining and enormous potential to be boring as shit all.  If I can use any game this season to really show the two different sides of Manchester United, it’d be the Everton game this past week that ended with a 2-0 victory.  

The first half of the game showed everything that Manchester United should not be.  In United’s darkest games, they like to sit back and soak up the pressure until Jose can spring a counter attack.  Now this is a typical Mourinho technique, and it has worked in the past with Chelsea and Real Madrid.  I mean, hell, he’s won a title in his second year at a club in every single stint.  So the man knows how to win, but when he sets United up like this, he sets them up for failure.  They do not have that defensive mindset.  United’s always been about beautiful attacking football, not soaking up pressure.  So in the first half of this game, you saw United pinned in their own half, not really in danger of conceding a goal, but nowhere close to attacking the opposition.  Unfortunately this is a overwhelming pattern at United right now.  

Manchester United are talented enough to soak up this opposition’s pressure, but it doesn’t allow for their full potential to show.  When Mourinho sets the team up like this, he ruins Pogba’s creative outlet and over relies on a quick counter attack to get a goal.  This kinda sucks for both the team and the fans.  On one hand, it makes for some boring ass football and on the other, it hamstrings United’s attack and creative presence.  If you watch the other top 4, top 6, teams, they are able to consistently mount attacks in the oppositions half.  City is brilliant at this, and will stay in an attacking mindset for ten minutes at a time, recycling the ball when they can’t find a way through the defense.  United doesn’t possess this skill when Mourinho is at his worst.  There is no consistent pressure and the ball is constantly being shuffled backwards or lost in possession.  It’s a shit show.

When Mourinho preaches these defensive-counter attack tactics, it’s like Chernobyl after the whole accident jawn.  It’s toxic as hell.  These tactics limit Pogba’s influence, and when Pogba’s taken out of the game, United loses their link from midfield to attack.  It puts way too much pressure on Matic (CDM) and the entire defense, relying on them to not only defend, but to start each attack.  And it cuts off the strikers from the rest of the field.  Shockingly, the first half ended 0-0 and it looked like the fans were in for another afternoon of boring Mourinho fuckery.  These “Park the Bus” tactics might have worked on Chelsea and at Real and Inter, but this is frickin’ United, Mourinho.  This club has been known for its attack for years, don’t hamstring it.

Like the crazy ex-girlfriend that Mourinho is, he makes you almost forgive him for every bad thing he does.  He also has a wonderful, brilliant side to his game.  When Mourinho’s on his game, he’s untouchable.  When Mourinho sets the team up for success, the team responds to his changes and look brilliant.  So….the second half of the Everton game.  It was like that ex-girlfriend came back, apologized for cheating and brought me sushi.  Everything was amazing for 45 minutes.  Everything was set up brilliantly, the tactics completely changed, and United looked like the team they’re supposed to be.  By moving Pogba to the left of the midfield and allowing him to torture that back line of defense in tandem with Lionel-shit…Jesse Lingard, the attack couldn’t be stopped.  And with the Everton defense focused on Pogba and Lingard’s danger on the left flank, it opens up the rest of the field for United to play.  Pogba was freed from most of his defensive duties, which allows him to flourish.  Allowing Pogbooooom to flourish is dangerous, because just like when Lebron gets hot, teams start to double and triple team him.  This frees up space and allows for smooth attacking football.  Ask me why Mourinho doesn’t do this every game? I don’t know.  Matic is strong enough to hold the back line when it isn’t constantly being pressed, so with that one simple tactical move, Mourinho frees up United’s attack and takes pressure off of the defense.  And the tactical results are stunning.  United went up to 60% of possession, outshot Everton by 12 shots in the second half, and turned the game around for a beautiful 2-0 victory with goals by the new GOAT Jesse Lingard and the French sensation, Tony Martial.

This second half shows that United is capable of playing with the big boys.  Capable of hanging with City in the League, but the performances overall in 2017 show inconsistency and horrible tactical decisions.  When Mourinho frees up his team and allows them to play creatively, rather than playing it safe, he doesn’t put United in danger of conceding, he lets them do their job.  WIN.