Sunday 8 January 2017

Tactical evolution key to best winning run in years

United secured an eighth successive victory in all competitions with Saturday's FA Cup win over Reading - the first such run since the 2008/09 season.

With Tuesday night's EFL Cup semi final against Hull and the league clash with Liverpool looming at the weekend, Jose made nine changes from the side that beat West Ham last time out. 

Despite the rotation, it was a still a strong United side that included eleven internationals and demonstrated the quality and strength in depth at the manager's disposal. 
Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were named on the bench but stand-ins Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford all got on the scoresheet and Marouane Fellaini also played well. 

United have two players for each position - even three in some areas - a far cry from the depths of last season when Louis van Gaal went into the campaign with a shallow squad of 19 players, and relied on untried youngsters in the event of injury.

Chopping and changing is a natural process for any new manager as he searches for a winning formula and Jose was no different in the early months of his tenure, but results (if not performances) suffered. 

He received criticism for doing so - perhaps justifiably - and, while the upturn in results is a collective rather than individual effort, the manager deserves credit for our reversal in fortunes. 

Consistency breeds success and it's no co-incidence that since settling on a system and keeping personnel changes to a minimum, United and Jose have hit their stride. 

In stark contrast to LVG's rigid 4-2-3-1 system, Mourinho's system evolves between three formations: often a 4-3-3 than can also fluidly switch to a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-1-4-1, depending on the match situation. 

Michael Carrick is a peerless and brilliant presence in the team and makes us tick, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford give us width, pace and penetration and Paul Pogba's energy and athleticism has proved the perfect foil for the string-pulling Juan Mata alongside him.

Jose has lifted the squad beyond all recognition.

Marcos Rojo is a player reborn, Phil Jones is in the form of his life and LVG outcast Ander Herrera has discovered a new lease of life and has become indispensable under Mourinho. 

Antonio Valencia has added potency and an end product to his solid and dependable style, and Mata has enjoyed his most productive season to date under the tutelage of the manager who alienated him at Chelsea. 

Eight wins in a row, heady days indeed and the good times are surely coming back to Old Trafford. 

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