Search icon


10th Mar 2018

Manchester United’s performance against Liverpool was an old-school Mourinho masterclass

The efficiency of United was reminiscent of Mourinho's best sides

Wayne Farry

At home to their rivals, Manchester United exploited each of Liverpool’s flaws in a manner reminiscent of the very best Mourinho teams.

When you hear the phrase “Mourinho masterclass” one thing generally comes to mind: the bus. That bus which, since joining Manchester United, has become the de facto calling card for the Portuguese coach, particularly in big games.

It is not an unfair label; Mourinho is all too often guilty of sending his players out with the intention of thwarting the opposition, rather than taking the game to them.

Against Liverpool though we saw a different kind of Mourinho masterclass, one in which his team ruthlessly exposed every area of weakness in Jurgen Klopp’s team.

From the first minute one could sense a different approach from the home side. There was no sitting back, no tentative dipping of the toe into the waters of the game; from the off they showcased their intention to deploy a proactive game plan, rather than the reactive displays with which we have come to associate them.

Focusing the brunt of their attacking play down the left-wing, United intentionally put pressure on Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who looked increasingly uncomfortable at the prospect of dealing with Marcus Rashford.

Working in tandem with precise high balls up to Romelu Lukaku – an obvious tactic, though one which Liverpool failed to deal with throughout the game – United consistently created gaps in a Liverpool defence which, despite its reputation for the absurd, has been solid for most of the season.

This exploitation was highlighted by both of United’s goals, as Rashford consistently took advantage of Alexander-Arnold’s hesitation and lack of defensive discipline to twice punish the right-back.

In between their goals, United were extremely solid and, barring Eric Bailly’s rather comedic own goal, were rarely seriously threatened by an away attack which was uncharacteristically lacking in flow.

While it was in part an off day for Liverpool, United can also take heart from just how successfully they prevented any attempts from their guests to build the sort of breathtaking attacks with which they have now become synonymous.

Above all, from start to finish, it was a case of a Mourinho team doing what a Mourinho team has always done best: exposing the weaknesses of the opposition and taking its chances when presented with them.

It was a performance of brutal efficiency, one with echoes of the best teams the Portuguese manager has coached, from his mid-2000s Chelsea side to his all-conquering Inter Milan, and proved that – even in 2018 – not all Mourinho masterclasses need to involve the infamous bus.