Jose Mourinho doesn’t like journalists who ask him whether the team he manages would “park the bus” and put up a defensive performance against any opponent. This question was asked ahead of Manchester United’s visit to Anfield on October 14th.
His answer was “We play with nine strikers and one defender.” How far from reality is that statement? Well, it is miles away.
Jose Mourinho’s starting eleven at Anfield consisted of Darmian, Jones, Smalling and Valencia who made up the back four, two holding midfielders in the likes of Herrera and Matic, three offensive midfielders and wingers such as Martial, Mkhitaryan, Ashley Young and Romelu Lukaku up top.
On paper, this is a formation which would allow United to be equally good in defence and in attack. Herrera and Matic closed spaces in front of the back four and restricted Liverpool’s chances to score a goal, stunting Liverpool’s attack. Both are aggressive players who are capable going forward but neither made an offensive move at Anfield. Why?
Mourinho simply thought that not losing at Anfield is the priority
The result of this approach was a very unimpressive Man Utd side that were focused on destroying Liverpool’s game rather than creating chances and scoring goals. No-one should be surprised that United have had only one chance to score, spurned by Lukaku.
All the pressure must be on Mourinho after such a destructive performance! I’m sure that most Man United fans are ashamed with their team’s performance at Anfield. The only thing that saves Mourinho from being trashed by the pundits and commentators is that United got lucky and didn’t lose the game!
As soon as the starting eleven of Liverpool and Man United was announced on Saturday, it was clear that it would be a make or break game for the Reds. It would not be hard for Jose Mourinho’s side to outplay Liverpool in midfield where Liverpool fielded Wijnaldum, Henderson and Emre Can.
However, what we saw was anything but. United’s midfielders failed to control the game or maintain possession against Liverpool’s three-man midfield, which is a real shame for a team that has set their sight on the Premier League title.
Liverpool deserve credit for their performance
The 4-3-3 offensive formation has become a traditional one for Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool. The key to success for the Reds in the early Saturday afternoon fixture was the ability of their strikers to hold United’s midfielders in their own half and to hopefully score goals from every opportunity.
The Reds managed to press United and force them to play in they own half. Henderson and Can helped the back four restrict Lukaku and the other “nine Man United strikers” to just one chance in front of goal.
This is very much Jose Mourinho fault as his team just wasn’t good enough to win at Anfield. This Saturday afternoon Liverpool didn’t have a “general defending problem”. It is instead Manchester United who had a serious “general offensive problem”.