Jose Mourinho has shed light on how he made some crucial changes to Manchester United’s tactical positioning – alongside a series of expletives – at half time ahead of his side’s dramatic 3-2 win over Crystal Palace.
The visitors started poorly at Selhurst Park, overwhelmed by Palace’s speed as well as hampered by their flimsiness on the ball, and went in 1-0 down at half time.
Mourinho brought on Marcus Rashford for Scott McTominay at half time and, despite falling further behind just three minutes after the restart, mounted a sensational comeback to win 3-2 through goals from Chris Smalling, Romelu Lukaku and a stunning last minute goal from Nemanja Matic.
And the 55-year-old, speaking after the game, made note of an important series of attacking tweaks that helped United get going following a poor 50 minutes.
“I cannot tell you half of the things I told my team at half-time because there would be lots of bleeping on television,” he said. “But what I can say was all about the tactical positioning.”
“There were a few strong words at half-time relating to their [Man Utd players’] attitude and the intensity of the game. But there was tactical information and we changed things.”
Mourinho’s 4-3-3 worked wonderfully against Chelsea’s 3-4-3 because it translated into a comprehensive man-to-man marking job, but against Palace, playing in a classic 4-4-2, their underbelly was exposed and their wingers were far too narrow, precipitating a horrible kind of inertia in both attack and defence that we have grown to know all too well over the last few years.
But the boss reacted. Rashford came on the left to bring United up the pitch, Jesse Lingard lingered on the right and drifted busily towards the centre, where Alexis Sanchez had been put after struggling on the left flank, while Juan Mata, coming on from the bench, added some vital composure in the final third to really turn the screw on Palace.
Above anything, though, United simply went for it, and that will mean more to supporters than anything.
United sensed blood from the moment Smalling’s header went in, the crowd just dropping a few decibels, and launched wave after wave of attack, coming at the hosts from all angles and, eventually, landing the fatal blow.
It was like watching a classic United performance. But more importantly, this was yet another show of this side’s current resilience under Mourinho, who has now seen his side come back from behind to win in consecutive games.