Expansive, enjoyable, expressive football; hardly the sort of adjectives which have recently described football at Old Trafford. Instead, predictable, boring, and fearful football are the words that have been associated with the Red Devils.
Such has been United’s inability to express themselves since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, they have only registered 49 and 54 goals in the two most recent Premier League campaigns; appalling for a club who identify themselves with high energy and aggressive football.
However, Jose Mourinho’s men look to be turning a corner. Already with 12 league goals this season, they are well on their way to looking more like the familiar offensive Manchester United.
“I’m very happy. It was a great start!”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 13, 2017
Once again, in the Red Devils’ opening Champions League game the expansive football was back on display. Defeating Basel 3-0 – which could have quite easily been a lot more – was further evidence that the attractive and free flowing football was back on a mid-week night… and not a Thursday night.
But such encouraging signs did not seem to sit well with the forever unsatisfied Mourinho. The Portuguese man blasted his players for showing signs of complacency after going 2-0 up through Romelu Lukaku’s debut Champions League goal:
“After 2-0, I think everything changed and we stopped to play, stopped to think, stopped to play seriously. We stopped to make the right decisions on the pitch and we could put ourselves in trouble.
“Bad decisions, fantasy football, PlayStation football, tricks and when you stopped to play as a team and when you stopped to play seriously I don’t like and you gamble a little bit.
“The players probably felt that the game was under control with the 2-0 but football is football and you have to respect your opponent.”
Such criticism is only likely to discourage this offensive style. For so many years, United fans have been void of flair; flair which excites the crowd and makes standing in the p—ing rain on a Tuesday night enjoyable… ‘Let the boys play’ as they say.
Mourinho has previously said in the campaign that he wants his team playing ‘happy’ football. This ‘happy’ football was on show in their opening Champions League game, so encourage it, rather than continue to bang the bolts down on any sort of expressive football that has been absent at Old Trafford for four years.