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Why Jose Mourinho Will Not Be Using His Trademark Tactics At Manchester United

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When it comes to football managers, first impressions are vital. José Mourinho’s “special one” assertion in his first press conference as a Premier League manager became his default nickname, and his subsequent defensive approach with Chelsea is rubberstamped as his trademark footballing philosophy. In reality, things are, as often, more complex.

Mourinho’s reputation as a purely defensive manager is narrow and based largely upon the debate that attractive football must involve long spells of possession. His early sides, the Champions League-winning Porto team of 2003-04 and the Chelsea side who recorded back-to-back Premier League titles in the mid-2000s, were capable of counterattacking directly, producing an ideal combination of thrilling goals and  winning trophies in glut.

With regards to his new Old Trafford approach, Mourinho has been quick to quash suggestions of a game purely based on possession and relying on the counter attack.

Mourinho has assured United’s famed attacking brand of football will be ever-present during his tenure – in part due to the presence of Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

“I don’t think Rooney and Ibrahimovic are players to play in the counter-attack. We have to be dominant in our game but, again, one thing is to be dominant by trying to have a huge percentage of ball possession. Another way to be dominant is to play in the last third and to use the best quality of two strikers like Rooney and Ibrahimovic, so I have to read the situation and adapt to the quality of the players.”- he said on the style United would look to employ this season.

Over the years, Mourinho has managed to create a successful fusion of adjusting technically gifted players with defensive stability at the back. His stint at Real Madrid and second stint at Chelsea were a testament to his tactical evolution since winning the Champions League with Inter.

Generally, Mourinho’s sides play perfectly exciting football throughout the season, but become more cautious, in big matches, towards the end of a campaign. This does not differ from Sir Alex Ferguson’s approach during the final decade of his tenure at Old Trafford when United’s purposeful, high-intensity football would give way to reactive, counter-attacking displays against elite opposition. If United supporters accepted that approach, Mourinho’s blueprint should not be problematic.

Mourinho generally trains his players in two separate formations. Since Real Madrid and the Chelsea second stint, he has favoured 4-2-3-1, with 4-3-3 the plan B, and that will be his probable approach at Old Trafford.

Manchester United had the joint-best defensive record in the Premier League in 2015‑16, and having worked under Louis van Gaal, Mourinho will understand exactly how United’s players have been drilled. However, he will unquestionably utilise different defenders to Van Gaal. Eric Bailly, Daley Blind and Luke Shaw select themselves at least in the early stage of the campaign. Matteo Darmian is also likely to be given a run at right back.

Juan Mata lacks the dynamism of Mourinho favourite Ozil and will have to be content with a utilitarian role. Jesse Lingard, meanwhile, is the type of hard‑working, versatile squad member Mourinho will use for specific, individual tactical reasons against dangerous individuals. Schneiderlin and Carrick will both have important roles, the former in charge of the running and the latter in charge of spraying the passes around and feeding the attack.

Up front, Mourinho should be licking his lips. Anthony Martial and Memphis Depay are hugely talented, dynamic youngsters who could be converted into devastatingly effective wide forwards, while Marcus Rashford’s ability to run the channels and link with onrushing midfielders makes him a promising lone striker.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is expected to be given the number 10 role with a front three of Martial in the left, Ibrahimovic in the centre and Rooney in the right of a 4-3-3 formation.

It is not difficult to estimate an exciting Mourinho style team from the present United batch and at least for what’s certain, United won’t just rely on the counter attack this season.