Love him or hate him, Jose Mourinho can be a tactical genius when he wants to be.
The Special One might not be the immovable force he used to be and a sixth place finish is testament to that, but he has experienced a solid first year in charge of Manchester United. After all, it can hardly be considered a failure when three trophies came his way.
It was a treble of sorts with the Red Devils securing the Community Shield, League Cup and the Europa League.
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The final accolade of the three was by far the most important. Not only did it give United the chance to end the season on a high but to mask their league shortcomings by qualifying for the Champions League through the back door.
As a result, there was an incredible amount of pressure riding on the final and a one-off clash with a canny Ajax side. Moreover, it proved a classic Mourinho clash with the game soon evolving into a war of attrition.
It proved a conflict that was settled by goals from Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan though. The Red Devils were able to nullify their Dutch opponents and ensure they posed little threat to David de Gea.
It prompted United fans to attribute great credit to Mourinho and the way he set-up his starting XI to smother Ajax and carve out chances.
While supporters can often jump to praising the 54-year-old when perhaps it is unjustified, credit was certainly due on this occasion. It still takes the players to execute the plan but needs a meticulous tactician, such as Mourinho, behind it.
Interestingly for supporters too, the magic behind that Europa League win might not be as secretive as you’d think. In fact, the man himself has been revealing the key to his approach as part of a series of lessons he hosts.
And thanks to Tribuna Expresso, fans can revel in Mourinho’s European tactics and they’re certainly in depth. The cunning plan can be seen below:
Well, you certainly can’t fault the Special One for preparation.
What is quite interesting though, is the casual jibe aimed at Chris Smalling as means of justifying a reluctance to play out from the back. It seems Mourinho is as big of a fan of Smalling’s distribution as Pep Guardiola is of Joe Hart’s.
The Englishman certainly hasn’t been Mourinho’s first choice centre-back throughout his United tenure but such a comment is slightly harsh. How jovial it was intended to be can’t be told through a manuscript, of course.
Nevertheless, whether Smalling had to swallow his pride or not, it proved a plan that propelled the Red Devils back into the mix with Europe’s elite. Ajax simply have to sit back and admit – they played Mourinho at his best and lost.
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