Man United show that attack is the only way to go

On the evidence of the last two performances, a couple of things are clear.

One, Mourinho was right in the summer and United desperately need a new centre half. Two, attack must be the best form of defence for this team.

At the end of the Newcastle game, the fans were up. We’d won in thrilling fashion, despite being two goals down. At the final whistle on Saturday, we were deflated, of course, but we’d again seen glimpses of what this team can do going forward.

Now we must see more of it, without needing to go behind to stir some attacking intentions.

When Mourinho first signed on at Old Trafford, he was portrayed as a pragmatist who knew how to mould his teams to the opposition for each individual game.

What we’re currently seeing is a manager a little too obsessed with defensive structure when the evidence of how to get the best out of his team is staring him in the face.

In the first half on Saturday, United were too concerned with Eden Hazard and restricting Chelsea’s passing game and pace down the flanks. What he should have been concentrating on was how he could expose their weak defence and exploit our own pace out wide.

That is exactly what happened when his hand was forced. Luke Shaw and Ashley Young pushed up, we got closer to Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata was a revelation for the second game running.

By nature of the way we attacked and pushed Chelsea back, the threat of Hazard was neutralised, and we completely overran them in the middle.

Mata was key to this. He was finally able to play in his favoured number 10 position and he showed just how good he can be when deployed in the right way.

“Saturday’s game in London was undoubtedly special” said Juan Mata on his blog. “I will never stop being thankful for the care that I am shown by Chelsea fans whenever I play at their ground. It is something that is truly amazing, it makes me feel happy, proud and grateful. What happened on the pitch was exciting, too, but in the end we were left with a bad taste in our mouths because we could almost reach out and touch the three points.”

One of the biggest problems for United under Mourinho has been a team packed with fast forwards playing ponderous and slow football. Mata is surely the solution. If you have Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford out wide, you need someone with the quality of pass and speed of thought to release them when the time is right. Mata is exactly that player and must be a fixture in that position.

Which brings us to Tuesday night.

The big question facing Mourinho is how he lines up against Juventus in the Champions League. The Italian champions are Champions League veterans and now have the added spice of Cristiano Ronaldo coming back to Old Trafford once again.

You can almost feel Mourinho’s approach in your bones with the mention of Ronaldo in the offing. Hold your defensive positions, keep it tight, and try and nick one.

That’s never going to work with the state of our defence at the moment.

And here’s the thing. We’re effectively already behind in the Champions League. After the disastrous outing against Valencia we need a result against Juventus. Arguably we need a result in Italy against them too, but we’ll deal with that when we come to it.

If we don’t win, we’ll be in really sketchy territory. So, there’s only one option. Go for it. Get the full backs pushed high up the pitch. Get Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba close together, swarming their midfield and, most importantly, get Mata on the ball in the areas where he can hurt them with his vision for our forwards.

If we impose ourselves on the contest in this manner, we really shouldn’t be worrying about Ronaldo. Famous last words.

So go on, Jose. The ball is in your court. The fans really want to sing the line “Jose’s playing the way that United should” and mean it.

We miss those famous Champions League nights. It’s time to give the fans what we crave.


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