Mourinho Was Wrong In His Choice Of Tactics for The Manchester Derby6 min read
Manchester City delivered a crushing blow to Manchester United’s title chances after they beat them convincingly in this season’s first Manchester derby.
In truth, it was a one-sided affair, with Pep Guardiola’s team dominating possession and keeping Man United deep in their own half. The Citizens deserved the three points, to extend their lead to 11 at the top of the table, but José Mourinho’s tactics should be questioned after an incredibly disappointing performance.
The Portuguese boss opted for the right team, given what players he had available at his disposal, but the choice of tactics were those of a club that was intimidated by City’s presence. Manchester United have immense history and should be a team that do not fear anybody – and yet, they approached the game timidly and sat back, inviting pressure onto them.
It is different going to Anfield and soaking up pressure, to then try to hit Liverpool where it hurts on the counter attack and punish them. But, at Old Trafford, in such a big occasion, it was infuriating for fans of the Red Devils to watch their team give City so much respect and rarely pose a threat in the game. At no point did Guardiola’s men really think that they were under threat.
Mourinho started both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, which was a great statement of intent, but to accommodate this, he placed the Frenchman on the right-hand side, which does not suit Martial at all. Throughout this season, Martial has excelled down the left, cutting in on his favoured right foot and showing what he is capable of. Down the right, he was always looking to cut inside, but it did not have the same effect.
Rashford is a boy-of-all-talents, but it has been clear this season that Martial has been in better form and playing at a higher level. So it was disappointing to see Rashford on the left, forcing Martial to occupy the other flank which did not take to him well. The former Monaco forward’s main source of goals have come from playing left wing this season.
By doing this, it also meant Manchester United had a lack of width throughout the game. Because Martial likes to cut inside, Antonio Valencia was the only player to stretch City’s defence out-wide. It has been a problem for United all season – a lack of wingers – but it was significantly highlighted in this Manchester derby.
With Paul Pogba being ruled out through suspension, it was always going to be a difficult task for Ander Herrera to come in and fulfil the gaping hole in United’s midfield. The problem Mourinho has, that Guardiola does not, is the quality of depth in his ranks. He simply does not possess the same level of players that City have, and so it makes it very incredibly difficult for a player to come in and perform at the required standard.
Herrera might have been a key player under Louis van Gaal, as well as in Mourinho’s first year, but his form has declined drastically and he does not appear to be the same player he was. The Spaniard simply does not have the ability to run games of that magnitude and drive the Red Devils up the pitch; it was a key component that was missing in United’s game plan against City.
Mourinho has not been nearly as defensive as some might be suggesting this season, but this game was one that was incredibly disappointing to witness. There was one period of five minutes, straight after City’s opener, that United went out looking for an equaliser. This was the only section of the game in which the Red Devils looked genuinely threatening, and managed to score from it.
Going into half time, that should have said to Mourinho that City’s defence is there for the taking if only you had given your attackers the chance to do that. Man United never looked like they wanted to take the game to them and, instead, were waiting for a mistake to take place.
Overall, it was a very poor approach from Mourinho and Manchester United. No one should be expecting the magic of Sir Alex Ferguson taking placing every week, but you do, at the very least, want to see a team that is not sitting back, frightened of what might happen if they step out of their half. There is still a long way to go to be genuinely competitive for the Premier League.