Tactical analysis – What is going wrong with Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United?


After spending close to 250 million Pounds, Manchester United were finally expecting things to turn for the better in the 2015-16 season, having spent close to 4 years in the wilderness.

Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired from coaching, Manchester United have been looking for an able manager to replace the irreplaceable. By signing Jose Mourinho, one of the few top coaches in the world today who has a proven track record, it looked like United were going to get back into their winning ways, but sadly that does not look likely at this stage of the season. For all the changes and ideology brought in by Louis Van Gaal last season, work has to be started from scratch once a new manager takes charge.

Mourinho immediately signed his favourite player Zlatan Ibrahimovic, also brought in defender Eric Bailly and midfielders Henrikh Mkhitaryan and French superstar Paul Pogba. With such illustrious signings, fans and the world were expecting a Red Devils that could win the league. However, the team has just not clicked the way everyone wanted, and United now lie outside the top 4 in the league once again and are only average in their Europa League campaign so far.

The problem is very clearly in the attack. United have not been able to score goals regularly, having scored just once in the entire month of October. There is a lack of genuine goal scorers, as both Zlatan and Rooney look to be well past their prime. The Swedish started the season well but has since tapered off, with closer marking and better defending combined with overall poor finishing making things difficult for the big Swede. Of course Wayne Rooney has been in decline for a few years now and he is not expected to bring in titles like he once used to. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial both look highly promising but they are still not in the same league as the top forwards in game. Both are eventually going to become superstars, but that might take one or two more seasons, and till then patient has to be shown with them.

With a lack of finishers up front, it is upto the midfield to take up the load and carry the team forward, but here too the goals have dried up. Occasional goals by Juan Mata and Paul Pogba are not going to be enough if Manchester United want to seriously challenge for the title. Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, Mouranne Fellaini are all good players and have played well in the center of the pitch so far. The biggest dud has obviously been Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Much was expected of the Armenian, but he is still yet to find his footing in the English game, and is in danger of getting transferred if things dont turn around soon.

The saving grace for Mourinho’s men has been the defense. As is always the case with all of Jose’s sides, he has a water tight defense with David De Gea marshalling the troops from goal. Eric Bailly was the standout performer before getting an unfortunate injury, and he along with Daley Blind were a rock at the back. Antonio Valencia started the season very well but he has since cooled off due to injuries and fatigue.

It’s a very typical Mourinho setup, wherein he has the players who can light it up on the offensive end on their day, and a defensive unit that will not allow too many goals.

Manchester United have a solid team, but a lack of positive results is a problem. Of course as time goes on, the boss will find a way, but for mow it is hard to see where the goals are gong to come from. United are not great at counter attacks, a hallmark of great Mourinho teams. They are not able to control and dominate games with their passing and this lack of authority has resulted in the poor performances. They are dangerous at set pieces, but that is about the only time they look threatening. Jose has been sitting back and absorbing the pressure so far, especially against the big teams, but he will soon have to put the pedal to the floor to give the Red Devils a fighting chance to get back to the top.


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Photo by Ali F. Al-Saeed