Jose Mourinho explains Manchester United’s tactical change against Everton

by Leo Nieboer

Jose Mourinho has explained how Manchester United’s changed their approach in the second half of their 1-1 draw with Everton on Tuesday night, noting the home side opted for a more direct route against the Toffees.

The home side fell behind in the 22nd minute after Phil Jagielka capitalised on some poor communication between Marcos Rojo and David de Gea.

Man United rampantly pushed for an equaliser in the second half, striking the woodwork twice, before Zlatan Ibrahimovic eventually restored parity from the spot in injury time.

And Mourinho, speaking after the game, noted that his side opted for a more direct approach in the second half.

“If you compare the second-half with the first-half the second-half was much better,” he said. “And it was difficult to improve because I could feel some of the boys were a bit in trouble by the confidence levels and when the confidence levels are not high the quality of the performance is not easy to improve.

“So we had to go through a shortcut. We had to do it by an attitude point of view, we start playing in a way where we don’t play so much, so we’re feeling the lack of confidence of the players, so we play more direct.

“Fellaini changed the game just with Zlatan side to side or a little bit behind, we start playing more direct, Everton start defending with everybody back, so they give us the ball and then we open people.

“And we open Luke on one side and Lingard in another one and we start going through the wings and putting the ball in the box and one cross, one goal, disallowed. Wrong but I repeat I don’t have a bad feeling at all because it was a difficult one for the linesman. So I’m not disappointed in him at all and I told him that already, no problem for me.

“We had more chances and we hit the post, Zlatan had a free header over the bar and we tried everything and the goal arrived so we know by the points point of view it is not so important, zero point or one point, it doesn’t make a huge difference but it’s a good feeling for the boys not to lose.”

You can send both praise and blame in Mourinho’s direction for the tactical shift made in the second half: one on hand, such a switch did turn the tide in United’s favour, with the physical presence of Marouane Fellaini and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – accompanied by the threat out wide posed by Ashley Young, Luke Shaw, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard – successfully pinning Everton back and reducing them to the occasional counter-attack.

On the other hand, though, the very fact that Mourinho abandoned his initial game plan demonstrates that, from a tactical point of view, he was outsmarted by Ronald Koeman, who enjoyed plenty of success by flooding the midfield and placing optimum pressure on Michael Carrick in the first half.

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