Jose Mourinho has explained the reason behind Matteo Darmian‘s half-time substitution during Manchester United’s 2-0 win over West Ham United, pointing towards his side’s need for an extra midfielder.
Sofiane Feghouli’s controversial red card after 15 minutes saw Slaven Bilic pack all his men behind the ball, giving rise to a dogged, congested midfield battle.
Man United struggled to deal with West Ham’s firmness in the first half and Mourinho duly responded by taking off Darmian – who was also on a yellow card – and putting Juan Mata in midfield to storming effect.
The 53-year-old, speaking to MUTV, claimed that West Ham’s sudden lack of attacking threat led to Mata replacing the Italian.
“Jones, Carrick and Rojo were almost against zero, so West Ham had nine where we had seven,” he said.
“We needed to use the extra player and to use the extra player was to play Carrick at centre-back, to take one defender off (Darmian) and to play Mata in a position that would create them problems.”
This was, above anything, a glowing example of Mourinho’s tactical shrewdness. West Ham responded relatively well to unjustly going down to ten men, abandoning their game plan and reverting to a steadfast defensive system that saw the likes of Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini drop into midfield.
United, as a result, were outnumbered in midfield, comfortable in possession but unable to breach West Ham’s frontier.
Mata’s introduction immediately addressed this problem. Suddenly the pitch grew in size, with Mourinho’s men – buoyed by the presence of another man in midfield – now creating space going forward. West Ham had another body to deal with, and as the game – emphatically decided by Zlatan’s Ibrahimovic’s strike – petered out with ten minutes remaining you could tell that it was all too much for Bilic’s men.