Jose Mourinho is back managing an English team just 5 months after his sacking from Chelsea, this time at the theatre of dreams Old Trafford. It’s a certain thing that the Portuguese will bring his own style of play through which he has been a successful manager across Europe over the past decade or so.
It is one of the footballing beauties that there are infinite ways this game can be played. There are many in this era who are obsessed with pressing and possession game, exploring the idea of total football which was adopted by Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Barcelona are a perfect example of playing possession and dominating opposition playing in high-line, but Mourinho reminds us that there is an alternative to everything, his policy to play in a deeper line and soak up the pressure in the process trying to hit the opposition on the counter. The Portuguese is the master in it and his policy has paid dividends all over Europe in the past decade.
There are mainly two formations through which he goes about his business, they are 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1.
Let’s take a look at both the formations via tactics board and analyse through as to how Mourinho does his work with the team :-
As we see in the image above, Mourinho likes his defensive midfielder to become more of a third centre-back when the opposition is attacking at full throttle. The two wide midfielders will be covering the areas in between the centre-backs and fullbacks. The wide forward players will track back and cover up for their fullbacks. On the counter, wide forward players(encircled in yellow) will lead the charge or either of the two wide midfielders will spray the ball to the striker for holding it and getting other players into the game quickly. In this policy, the two wide forward players should have a very high work rate and the striker should be physical enough to hold up play whenever necessary to start the counter-attack.
The work-rate of the three midfielders are important too, they have the job to tire down the opposition midfield, this tactic is mainly employed for teams playing through the midfield and not relying much on wide play. Against the likes of Arsenal, Mourinho deployed this tactic with expertise, he tends to block the supply lines of the opposition by chocking the midfielders passing and tiring them down to play the way they don’t like to play which eventually will create mistakes and the team is ready to pounce on it.
This has been the primary formation for Mourinho in his managerial career, the two defensive midfielders will act as shield for the two centre-backs, the wide players will track back and cover up their fullbacks, the number 10 will drop in that centre circle area ready to pounce on any mistake by the opposition or will act as a target man other than the striker to start the counter-attack.
This formation is mainly against teams who like to play with wide players as their primary source of attack. Again the two wide forward players should have a high work-rate, the up and down running should be impactful at both ends. Against teams like Tottenham who likes to play with high fullbacks and attacking from wide areas, Mourinho deploy this 4-2-3-1 formation. The idea is to nullify the wide threats and exploit the gaps left by high fullbacks on the counter.
There has to be one word which should denote this style of play by the ‘Special One’, it’s called as Reactive play, a team should play on the edge reacting to certain mistake in high-line by the opposition or just react on particular phase of play to counter the threats and hit the opposition with fluid counter-play.
This is surely gonna be the first time when these non-possession based play will be deployed at the Old Trafford, as said earlier, the work-rate required for this is highest and combination of young and experienced players are required to work well as a team.
One thing which Van Gaal did right in his tenure at Old Trafford is he enhanced the academy developments in first team squads. It was partly because of injuries and mainly because the Dutchman loves to work with young players, make them good at the highest level. The likes of Rashford, Lingard and Borthwick-Jackson are perfect examples of that. This will certainly help Mourinho in making the squad better with the able support of academy players and emergence of them at the highest level, some credit is due for the outgoing manager.
All in all, Mourinho and Manchester United is a move that can go either way and it remains to be seen whether the Portuguese can roll back the years for United and take them back to their trophy days. Certainly he has the ingredients to turn things around and optimism around Old Trafford at the arrival gives a bright signal.
By Mizgan Ahmed on 31st May, 2016