We’re sure you’ve all seen the headlines this morning; ‘Vintage Jose delivers Liverpool masterclass’, ‘Mourinho the only man to stop the Klopp’, or ‘Man United back as title contenders by frustrating flying Liverpool’.
All those headlines are a surprise, seeing as the game was an embarrassment for Jose. It reiterated how far backwards Man United have gone since Sir Alex Ferguson, and even under Louis van Gaal, who, to give the Dutchman credit, always found a result when needed. Two wins out of two visits to Anfield in the Premier League proved just that.
First and foremost, LvG was continually ridiculed for boring, mundane, ‘sideways’ football, yet, not many have come to jump down Mourinho’s neck for mustering a few shocking stats from the game at Anfield last night.
Just the six touches in Liverpool’s penalty box, and one shot on target. Awful.
Opta: Manchester United players had just 6 touches in Liverpool's penalty area tonight
— Kaveh Solhekol (@SkyKaveh) October 17, 2016
Yes, Jose, ‘silenced Anfield before a ball was kicked’, and delivered a ‘masterclass’ in tactics by playing Ashley Young. A player who hasn’t started since 17th January in the Premier League, and whose only noticeable contribution to the game, was running 50-yards across the field to protest against a challenge on Ander Herrera.
The Englishman, rightly so, got himself a yellow card, and was made to look a little bit silly. To be fair though, the touch that Young executed from David de Gea’s pass in the first-half was totally sublime.
But, what is more telling about the performance was it wasn’t a United side who were playing for a point at Anfield, with a reason of challenging for the title. No, it was a damage limitation exercise. Jose simply could not lose this game, and then go to Stamford Bridge on the weekend.
You can see the headlines already; “Washed up Mourinho, greying faster than Bolt can run the 100m”.
So this is what it comes down to, a damage limitation exercise. Rather than going to Anfield to compete. United were frightened and that reflects in their ball retention stats.
Manchester United had just 35% possession v Liverpool – their lowest total in a league match since Opta began recording this data in 2003-04
— Kaveh Solhekol (@SkyKaveh) October 17, 2016
What is more revealing, is that Mourinho is aware of this and frightened of it. If the Portuguese man didn’t care, he wouldn’t have called out Sky Sports, or gone back into the press office to inform people that the stats were incorrect.
Why do you care, Jose?! Surely this is a frightened man, fearful of the fact that the battered LvG had two more points at this stage than the current Man United manager.
Mourinho just came back into press conference room to say Sky/BBC's possession stats are wrong. "My guy did it – 42 [percent], not 35."
— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) October 17, 2016
Perhaps what is more worrying is that the two ‘marquee signings’ were totally anonymous. One moment of brilliance from Paul Pogba was the cross to Zlatan, which the Swede failed miserably to turn into a header on target, let alone a goal.
It was exactly what the ageing ex-PSG man was brought into do. Be clinical, score the rare chances that come about. He failed. He can’t lead a defence from the front, a feat Premier League clubs nowadays require. And he can’t be that ruthless hunter that the 35-year-old has been throughout his career.
Pogba again struggles to work out his best position. The Frenchman was utilised as a No. 10 on Monday, and failed to make any real contribution. I’m sorry, we don’t care that United are struggling, and that the tactics of the game were to frustrate Liverpool. YOU ARE the most expensive player in the world, you have to make some form of impact in these games.
The ex-Juve man was used so affectively on the left of the diamond in Italy. However, not too sure the positional area is the problem. It is purely the fact he looked so good, as in all honestly, the Italian league is totally shit. The thought of Gonzalo Higuaín being a complete world beater at both Napoli and Juventus just about confirms that point more than most.
The bottom line is, United were boring, dull and safe. They won’t challenge for the title this year, as they are playing catch-up already. The damage limitation and rational pragmatism at Anfield confirms how the Red Devils currently can’t compete with the ‘big boys’, or go to your Anfields, Stamford Bridges, Emirates etc and play for three points.
Jose Mourinho is another Tony Pulis, but with a more expensive squad, playing for draws at the big guns.