Sunday 20 November 2016

Identity crisis over with United finally playing in their manager's image

United might not have got the result we craved but it could be a significant point for Jose and the team.

Mourinho has appeared relaxed and at times nonplussed in the dugout this season but on Saturday he was relentless, intense and incessant and so were United.

We finally played in the image of the manager and it looks as though the identity crisis might be over. 
Stylistically, we are playing our best football since those frenetic four months at the start of Sir Alex's final season - even if results are yet to match the upturn in performances - not yet, anyway. 

Mourinho's United attack with width, pace, confidence and swagger  and look largely solid at the back - whatever the "United Way" is supposed to be, we are probably not far off it. 

Statistically we have scored as many goals in the league as Watford but don't let that fool you - the dissenting voices have quietened, we are playing with freedom and even Marcos Rojo looks like a solid centre-half.

After much chopping and changing, Mourinho has finally settled on the right shape.

His 4-3-3 system functioned coherently and fluidly against Arsenal and Antonio Valencia's width made a huge difference.
He allowed Juan Mata to shift inside and link up with Ander Herrera,  a fabulous combination LVG discovered in his first season, only to bafflingly discard it in his second. 

Mata even showed his versatility and willingness to adapt as a makeshift right-back when Valencia surged forward and gave Nacho Monreal a torrid time. 

Paul Pogba continued to impress in his favoured position and Michael Carrick, as ever, coped with Arsenal's aesthetes supported by the busy and bustling Herrera.

Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford did not distinguish themselves but it's easy to forget that both are still youngsters in their second season in the senior side. 

Results may have been frustrating and inconsistent and it was hard to draw positives from the Stoke and Burnley stalemates last month.
If we had won both of those and beaten Arsenal yesterday, we'd be a mere two points off the top so not doing so was tough to take. 
That said, however, both of those games offered far more excitement, flair and flamboyance than the woeful wins and soporific slumber served up under LVG. 

We out-muscled, out played and out-thought an impotent and anodyne Arsenal, who looked anything but potential champions despite their late leveller.
The match was - bar the result - reminiscent of the SAF days and the post-2005 fixtures we invariably enjoyed against the Gunners. 

Paul Pogba was hugely impressive against Arsenal 

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