Jose Mourinho has opened up about how Manchester United will approach Saturday’s clash with Arsenal, noting that he will attack with 11 players and defend with 11 players at the Emirates.
Defeat at the Emirates alongside an almost certain Manchester City win over West Ham United over the weekend would extend the gap between the two sides ahead of their meeting at Old Trafford on December 10.
Jose Mourinho has not won a game away at a big rival since becoming Man United manager, scoring just once against last season’s top five.
And the Portuguese, when asked whether he would take risks against Arsene Wenger’s side, was notably coy with his response.
“It depends what you think about risk,” he said. “I think in the beginning of football, the guy that decided to say ‘defenders’ and ‘attackers’ was bad because in modern football everyone has to defend and everybody has to attack.
“So, for me, you can say what you want, you can analyse in the perspective you want to analyse.”
“When we have the ball, we are going to attack with 11 players because even the goalkeeper needs to know what to do when we have the ball. When Arsenal has the ball, we are going to defend with 11 players.”
“I play a game at a time and I think it’s the way to do it. Yesterday I was watching an interesting movie: Bjorn Borg v John McEnroe. Bjorn’s coach was telling him that all the time. ‘One point at a time, think just about one point’. I tell my players to think just about the game. I always say this.”
Mourinho was his usual cryptic self in the presser today, saying plenty whilst not actually saying much at all, but you sense his approach at the Emirates will not differ too much from years gone by.
The best way to unhinge Arsene Wenger’s side is to allow them time on the ball, encouraging midfield players to move up the pitch and work the ball through the lines.
Now, this is a risk in itself. Arsenal have the quality to unpick most sides, especially with Mesut Ozil in good form, but the Portuguese will know that, eventually, frustration will creep in, the Emirates crowd munching their gourmet pies with growing anger, and that is when gaps start to open up, mistakes are made, and the entire atmosphere – both on and off the pitch – becomes toxic for the home side.
And supporters will just hope that United, even without Nemanja Matic, hold firm and slowly bend the game in their favour in true Mourinho fashion.