Jose Mourinho told Alexis Sanchez to “connect more” with his Manchester United teammates at half time during the 3-2 win over Manchester City.
The Chilean had been an anonymous figure in the first half, estranged on the left hand side and hardly ever touching the ball.
But he was absolutely everywhere after the break, producing a superb run in the buildup to Paul Pogba‘s first before claiming assists for the Frenchman and Chris Smalling with a pair of pinpoint crosses.
Speaking after the game, Mourinho noted how he had told Alexis to engage with his midfielders more in the dressing room.
“I told my midfield players that they didn’t need to improve because they were playing very well even in the first-half,” he said.
“I think it’s very difficult to be a midfield player against Manchester City and Paul, Ander and Matic were playing really well but I need more from Lingard and Alexis.”
“I need them to connect our good football in midfield and especially I need my defenders to be a little more confident. With just a little bit of pressure by City they were kicking the ball, they were nervous, they were not bringing the ball with quality to my midfielders.
“So I needed improvement in terms of the confidence of them, also to bring the line up, so we could press a little bit.”
It was a stranded first half performance from United, clearly overwhelmed by Man City’s passing and haunted by the idea of full time.
And following Mourinho’s warning that United would look like clowns at full time and instruction to the latter pair to connect more with the midfield, a big change came. Suddenly there was a link between midfield and attack. Pogba was finding Alexis, now a buzzing presence across the pitch, and with that came belief.
This was the first time they connected on the pitch – rather than simply looking incompatible – and it wreaked havoc against the champions-elect.