When Manchester United supporters rejoice in their own standing as holders of the record for most English league title triumphs, they chant that their 20 successes were realized “the Matt Busby manner.” But on Monday they got their first real taste of soccer “the Jose Mourinho manner”Â in the 0-0 stalemate against Liverpool at Anfield.
This was a fixture which had finished scoreless just over the previous 25 years in 60 assemblies in all contests. Yet Mourinhoâs strategy ensured a tight, tense matter that finally found United triumph in closing out a formerly free-fluid Liverpool side, but fail in causing Jurgen Kloppâs outfit enough issues to analyze a poor-appearing shield.
In truth, Man Utd understood what it wasÂ getting in Mourinho. There was some idea that United may go for Mauricio Pochettino, who has revealed at Tottenham, Southampton and Espanyol the form of sensibilities usually required of a United manager. They did thus having seen some of the highlyÂ organized, careful operations his sides had often put in to claim significant points away from house, when the Red DevilsÂ plumped for the former Chelsea and Inter leader.
It was clear from the second Unitedâs team was pronounced just what type of performance this was likely to be. Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini were possibly the Red Devilsâ finest two outfield players on the night, but both earned much more plaudits for their tracking and breakingÂ upwards of play than they did for their creative skills.
Antonio Valencia and Eric Bailly also stood out at crucial moments, most notably when the Ecuadorian rightÂ back made an especial tackle on Robert Firmino late in the day after Philippe Coutinhoâs brilliant show had eventually opened up United. As a defensive team display, it was close to perfect.
Some will claim that David de Geaâs two brilliant saves in the 2nd half bailed the manager out, but had United taken another strategy the Spaniard may well have been operated for more frequently over the course of the 90 minutes.
All that was actually missing for United was a victor that is snatched. It should have arrived early in the 2nd half when Paul Pogbaâs excellent cross discovered Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the far post, but the Swede somehow sent his going attempt rear on the other side of the face of Loris Kariusâ goal. After an explosive beginning, Ibrahimovicâs operations have simmered more in recent games, but nobody could have anticipated him to miss this kind of splendid chance.
United supporters will wonder whether the defensive strategies were truly worth it, with back to back triumphs in league visits to Anfield under Louis van Gaal showing that it doesnât consistently require this kind of performance to get something against Liverpool. But the type of Kloppâs guys had made a reasonable percentage of the United fan base dreading considerably worse than a 0-0 draw.
Mourinho will get the positives from this operation. In the final three league matches he’s seen that his team understands the best way to attack at will, as it did against Stoke and Leicester. He is able to say that when the demand arises for a rearguard display, United may also produce.
It may not be generally the United way but whether Mourinho is a success or a failure in his reign as Manchester United manager, he’ll do in his own inimitable fashion. United supporters will have to accept this could prove to be the cost of succeeding.
Updated at 5:35 p.m. ET