It was a Monday night in February when Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea faced a Manchester City side who were on a roll. They were beating all and sundry and scoring goals for fun. How was Jose supposed to stop this juggernaut? The answer, Defend. Not just that but defend with a disciplined shape.
Mourinho was touted to be one of the heirs to Alex Ferguson throne some years back but many in the United hierarchy found him unfit because of his style of play. He was known for his defensive mindedness in the big games – most famously when his Inter Milan team won the champions league with 28% of ball possession against Bayern Munich and similarly knocked out Barcelona in the semi-final. But United wanted to entertain and win all at the same time so he never got the job.
Fast forward to October 17th 2016 and United having appointed their least favourite candidate for the top job at Old Trafford over the summer faced a Liverpool side in the same kind of form that Mourinho and his then Chelsea team faced back on that February Monday night. We got the same answer in terms of the solution – the only surprise being that we expected anything less.
Heading into the game Liverpool boasted the record of having scored the most goals in 2016. With their free flowing attacking brand of football, the Reds were tearing teams apart early this season. Jose was on a mission and at the final whistle he can say confidently that his mission was accomplished. He set up his team defensively with Young and Felliani coming in. United could not afford to lose this game after a stuttering start followed a great run earlier on in the season. The goal was not to lose this match.
People will talk about this being the clash of the most successful teams in England and that we deserved an entertaining game following the hype that followed this match. There were flashes of brilliance here and there with De Gea pulling of a superb save from Coutinho but unfortunately for us these teams are in the results business and do not care a jot (mostly) about what we think we deserve from a match. Mourinho and his United team needed a positive result against an opponent they could not afford to lose to and this would be viewed in their eyes as a point earned than rather two lost.
On Sunday United travel to Stamford Bridge, Jose’s old stomping ground where United have a rotten record. Nothing less than 3 points would be expected for United but I think can all forgive Jose once again if he is tempted to do what he does best.
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