Jose Mourinho opens up about his Manchester United tactics against Chelsea

by Leo Nieboer

Jose Mourinho has opened up about his game plan following Manchester United’s 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter final.

The Portuguese opted for a compact back four of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian, with wing backs Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young coming back to form a defensive six when Chelsea pressed forward.

Such an approach gave the visitors plenty of control during the opening stages, but the complexion changed following Ander Herrera‘s red card and Antonio Conte’s men went on to close out a deserved win.

Mourinho, speaking after the game, noted that the game plan put in place prior to the encounter stifled Chelsea’s momentum until Herrera received his marching orders in the 35th minute.

“The game was completely under control [before the red card],” he said.

“They couldn’t find what is their game. I keep saying their game is counter attack and when a team closes the spaces in between the lines and closes the full-backs, they have no qualities to be dangerous.

“In the second half with 10 men, we started with two up and they had a very important role in our attacking football, but also defending and building up from the three central defenders.

“Azpilicueta started coming up and creating situations where they brought us back, but even so we were brilliant in the way we played. We had two very good chances, the Marcus one was the biggest, and we were there.”

Mourinho, always a staunch pragmatist, clearly learned a few things from his last game against Chelsea. That 4-0 drubbing back saw United fall apart under the weight of Conte’s flourishing 3-4-3 system: the combined power of Victor Moses and Pedro one one side and Marco Alonso and Eden Hazard was too much for United’s flat, unprotected back four, and they duly suffered as the minutes ticked by.

This time around, however, the Portuguese had a clear plan: a compact back six with the wing backs bombing forward at will; one powerhouse, box-to-box midfielder; one powerful, technically gifted midfielder, a fluid, mazy No.10 and, of course, Marcus Rashford. Such a ploy would have stifled Chelsea moving forward and given United a support springboard for attacking, but going down to ten men gave Chelsea a chance to pass around Mourinho’s man and, credit where it’s due, they did exactly that.

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