Jose Mourinho has emphasised the importance of adopting a physical approach ahead of Manchester United’s clash with Stoke City on Saturday.
Man United will be determined to extend their winning run in the Premier League to four games and preserve their 100 per cent record following convincing performances against West Ham United, Swansea City and Leicester.
Mourinho’s men were saved from an ignominious defeat at the Bet365 Stadium last season by a stunning late Wayne Rooney free-kick that cemented his place as the club’s all time top goalscorer.
And the 54-year-old, speaking at a press conference, has insisted that, this time around, United will need to be smarter with the ball and more physically imposing.
“I would say it’s always difficult there,” he said. “Of course, sometimes, they lose matches but normally it’s not easy for anyone to play against Stoke.
“[It’s] probably because in the last years United was not strong enough and, in my personal case last season, we didn’t win because we were not good enough, didn’t play well enough.
“But they are different, they are aggressive, they defend with a lot of people, they are dangerous on counter attack, dangerous at set-pieces. It’s a stadium that has a lot of pressure, too. I think it’s going to be difficult again.
“Hopefully we can be better than in previous seasons so hopefully we can be better.
“When a team plays well it’s easier for the players to play well and perform; the team is playing well, I think it’s normal that so many players you can analyse their August month and say they were really good.
“Now, we put three players in the nominees for the player of the month. I know that no one won it but they put three players there and Matic was not even there. You could put four or five in the longlist because the team is playing really well.
“I hope these 15 days without us being together doesn’t affect us too much. I know it will affect, one thing is a week working with the players tactically and going through every principle of play and being ready for the weekend match and another thing is to have the players away and arrive step-by-step. I don’t even see them all.
“Today is the first time I see them all together, today is just to make the decision and the selection and travel to Stoke but hopefully we can keep a good level of play.”
Visiting Stoke forces you to deviate slightly from your standard approach. Any team that goes there and attempts to ease their way into the game before implementing their favoured style often leads to inertia – as discovered by Louis van Gaal.
You need to move the ball fast and, above all, assert your physical presence on the game early on. Stoke are not the long-throw, route one specialists of Tony Pulis anymore but they will bully you, and Mourinho will make it clear to his men that, alongside moving the ball faster, they have to match the erratic, awkward physical dynamic created by the home side from minute one.