Sunday 3 December 2017

Mourinho beats Wenger again and United break duck

United went to in-form Arsenal and won away from home to a "big six" club for the first time under Jose Mourinho.

The Portuguese boss beat his arch-rival Arsene Wenger for an 18th time - with Wenger's only success coming in that largely insignificant 2-0 win at the Emirates in May. Jose has earned a reputation for being defensive and negative in his approach against the top sides but there was none of that here. We were forced to sit back and soak up pressure for long periods of the game, but going forward we look capable of scoring every time we went forward - it was another tactical masterclass from Jose. There was no "parking the bus" set-up this time. 

Going into the game, United's record against our top six rivals under Jose did not make for pretty reading: three points from a possible twenty-one with only one goal scored (Wayne Rooney in our last trip to White Hart Lane a week after that defeat at the Emirates). 

This evolving United side are showing all the hallmarks of a classic Jose side: clinical and ruthless in attack, but also defensively strong, solid and thrillingly decisive on the counter-attack. 
For the opening ten minutes, we brutally punished two defensive errors from Arsenal and raced into a 2-0 lead, a start better than any of us could've hoped for. For an hour we were reliant on the breathtaking brilliance of David de Gea between the sticks to keep Arsenal out, even our Alexandre Lacazette had pulled a goal back. Finally, the Reds were dogged if depleted following the sending off Paul Pogba, but managed the game superbly to hold out for a fourth successive league win. 

Whilst De Gea's brilliance shows that United may have had to ride our luck at times, the team were impressive in offering a balance between defence and attack, led by the excellent Paul Pogba, Antonio Valencia and Jesse Lingard. 
Nemanja Matic recovered from the injury he sustained at Watford to start after initially seeming to be ruled out (more mind games from Jose?) and the presence of the metronomic midfielder once again freed up Pogba to wreak havoc high up the pitch.

Pogba now has five assists this season, surpassing his four from the last campaign, and his needless sending off was the only dark spot from an otherwise brilliant afternoon - he now misses the Manchester derby to make an already difficult challenge that little bit harder.

United's tally of 35 points after 14 games is the best since the 2012/13 season, Sir Alex's last in charge and our most recent title winning triumph. It's a points haul that would be enough for most sides to sit top of the table, but the relentless brilliance of Pep Guardiola's side - who have dropped only two points from their opening 13 games - has left United playing catch - up. 

Mourinho took a risk against Arsenal and it worked, but whether he chooses to live so dangerously when the neighbours come to town next weekend remains to be seen.

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