How Jose Mourinho is changing Manchester United’s style of play
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on August 18, 2016
Last season Manchester United played some of the worst football in the Premier League. A dull lifeless restricted style of play enforced by the then manager Louis van Gaal. It was a style of football that bored and angered the Manchester United faithful to the point where the manager was booed and jeered by the fans at OId Trafford. The main point of interest for fans of Manchester United when Jose Mourinho was appointed manager was how the style of play will change under the special one. Two games into the competitive season what changes from last season have we seen and how is Jose Mourinho banishing the infamous philosophy?
Manchester United is a club built on the belief and demand of it’s teams playing forward thinking entertaining football. At Manchester United boring football is not acceptable and the previous two managers have delivered incredibly boring football and have lacked the personality to galvanize Old Trafford and motivate their players and it showed on the pitch. David Moyes during his brief tenure looked overawed by the size of the club and most of the time seemed afraid of everything Manchester United is about. Moyes’s successor Louis van Gaal was not much better, 99% of the time van Gaal spent his time sat in the dugout writing down every miss placed pass or loss of possession in his notebook. That lackluster attitude rubbed off om the pitch and in the stands at Old Trafford. Although only two games in one major difference this season is the fact Jose Mourinho has personality and charisma. A man not overawed by the size of the club and a man who hardly sits down during games and likes to urge his players forward and give them guidance from the touchline. After 26 years of the fiery Sir Alex Ferguson on the touchline it is a welcome return to see a manager in Jose Mourinho who like Ferguson gets involved on the sidelines. A very small detail but a very important one for fans of Manchester United who want to see the passion of the manager on the sidelines and it is a significant change after 3 years of Moyes and van Gaal. Jose Mourinho’s presence on the touchline against Bouremouth clearly drove the players forward with the manager visibly demanding they pass the ball forward up the pitch towards the Bournemouth defense. It is just one example of how the managers personality has had a big impact on the players.
Against Bournemouth Manchester United had 52% possession compared to the 55% average possession last season under Louis van Gaal. Under van Gaal the retention of the ball was seen as the priority rather than scoring goals and getting the ball forward. Against Bournemouth we saw a Manchester United team who were more concerned with getting the ball into the Bournemouth half of the pitch. An example of this change was the build up to Juan Mata’s goal where Ander Herrera played a long pass into the Bournemouth half looking for a runner. Under Louis van Gaal that pass would not have been played as it goes against the principle of priority ball retention but through Jose Mourinho giving the players much more freedom the players are able to attempt these longer passes and don’t have to fear being told off in analysis sessions. Another feature of United’s play against Bournemouth was the rotation between the Manchester United front line players. It was very good to watch Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic interchanging positions and at times one of them would pop up in wide areas. The front line players were popping up all over the pitch and swapping positions which caused Bournemouth all sorts of problems. A stark contrast to the regimented robotic style under van Gaal where players couldn’t move from their set positions on the pitch.
Jose Mourinho has looked to get more pace into his Manchester United team. Against Bournemouth and Leicester a key feature of the teams play has been the full backs Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia getting forward and providing service to the front players. Valencia in particular has been very prominent providing service into the box and he assisted Zlatan’s winning goal in the Community Shield through his positive forward thinking play. Another famous trait of Manchester United teams is wide players getting forward and getting the ball into the box which is something Jose Mourinho is clearly looking to bring into his team. Manchester United had seven shots on target against Bournemouth comapre that to the fact United averaged just over 1 shot on target per game last season which was a truly pathetic effort from van Gaal’s team last season. As Manchester United fans we were truly spoilt at the weekend with so many shots on target. Yes, it is early in the season but that even the number of shots on target is a truly incredible improvement compared to last season.
So far Jose Mourinho has made great strides to improve the style of play in his short time at Old Trafford. The game against Bournemouth was arguably the most enjoyable Manchester United performance to watch for a long time. With greater freedom the players are taking risks with the ball and are actually having shots on goal and scoring goals. Paul Pogba and Henrik Mkhitaryan are still to come into the team which will add even greater flare and dynamism to the style of play. The improvement in the style of play is vast and will continue to improve and develop as the players continue to forget van Gaal’s philosophy and embrace Jose Mourinho’s style further.