Monday 17 April 2017

Mourinho usurps old side with perfect tactical masterclass

United's 2-0 win over Chelsea was an afternoon when everything came together perfectly.

Eyebrows were raised when Jose Mourinho's starting line-up did not include Zlatan or Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with Anthony Martial nowhere to be seen.

The result and the manner of our victory showed just how perfectly he had set up the team.

Mourinho has masterminded plenty of "big game" wins down the years, but usually does so with a defensive blueprint with a team that is hard to break down (as we saw at Anfield this season).

Against Chelsea, he flipped that model on its head: we went with two up front and wing backs pushed high up the pitch.
United got on the front foot early and went at them from the get-go. 

We did not give Chelsea an inch of space anywhere on the pitch and didn't allow them to get into any type of rhythm. 

With Ibra rested, the pace and movement of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard - pushed up alongside his young colleague in a 3-5-2 - offered a threat that instantly troubled Chelsea.
Their work rate gave the visitors a torrid time as the Reds played Antonio Conte's side at their own game, pressing the Blues into submission with a high intensity game plan. 

Rashford was a constant menace and left the field to a standing ovation after a superb performance filled with pace, purpose and electrifying promise.

The real masterstroke was Mourinho's use of Ander Herrera.

Herrera has quickly become a fans favourite at the club for his combative and hard-working displays and will only have enhanced that reputation here. 

Deployed as Eden Hazard's man-marking shadow throughout, Herrera was simply magnificent and typified his team's performance: hungry, energetic, unrelenting and clinical when it mattered. 

The Belgian, one of the best players in the league this season, was totally snuffed out by Herrera who covered his every move and forced him to the fringes.

On a miserable afternoon for Chelsea, Herrera capped his performance with an assist for the opener and the match-sealing second goal.
Harshly sent off on his last appearance against the Blues, this was vindication for the Spaniard.

At the back, Marcos Rojo and Eric Bailly produced an impenetrable defensive display to render the visitors top scorer Diego Costa almost anonymous.
The fiery hitman continued his long-running feud with Rojo throughout, a battle handled superbly by referee Bobby Madley. 

In midfield, Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba won every meaningful contest and completely outplayed opposite numbers N'golo Kante and Nemanja Matic. 

This was United's best performance of the season and a perfect tactical victory at the ideal time. 

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