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Manchester United: Three tactics Jose Mourinho could deploy to beat Spurs

After being lambasted for a negative approach to the Liverpool game, here are three tactics Jose Mourinho should use against Spurs to restore his reputation.


In terms of popularity, Jose Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino occupy polar opposite ends of the tactical spectrum. While the increasingly-revered Tottenham manager has been lauded for stumping Real Madrid on their own patch and annihilating a hapless Liverpool at Wembley, Mourinho has found himself lambasted and branded a ‘tactical dinosaur.’ 

Liverpool’s kamikaze defending against Spurs only served to further invalidate the United manager’s unpopular decision to drop deep and stifle the Reds as opposed to aiming straight for their evidently feeble backbone. 

A failure to overcome Huddersfield has further damaged Mourinho’s pride and the Portuguese manager now needs a commanding performance against Spurs to move his team ahead of them in the Premier League table. 

Matt Gault has drawn up three tactical approaches that Mourinho should use if he wants to beat an astute counterpart in Pochettino. 

  1. 1 Start Rashford on the wing


    Marcus Rashford replaced a wholly ineffective Anthony Martial at half-time against Huddersfield – and made a difference. The 19-year-old netted a late header to give United hope and, although it wasn't to be against David Wagner's side, Mourinho needs to start him against Spurs. 

    Despite his impressive rise in the last two years, Rashford hasn't always been guaranteed a start this season. He didn't make the starting line-up against Liverpool as Mourinho opted to play Ashley Young further up the pitch, a move which proved ineffective. 

    Now, following his goal against Huddersfield, Rashford has adequately staked his claim for a starting berth in the latest showdown with a title rival. Although Spurs tore Liverpool apart at Wembley, Mohamed Salah was an outlet on the right and got in behind Pochettino's high-line frequently, particularly in the first-half when he scored to pull the scoreline back to 2-1. 

    Rashford will fancy himself up against Serge Aurier who, despite being quick and mobile, has a tendency to get caught ball-watching and failed to track Salah's runs on more than occasion last week. 

  2. 2 Drop struggling Mkhitaryan


    Henrikh Mkhitaryan is not himself. After a bright start to the season – with five assists and a goal in the first five matches – the Armenian playmaker has gone off the boil in recent games and faces the possibility of being dropped on Saturday. 

    However, the momentum gained in those opening weeks has dissipated and the 28-year-old has come to a juddering halt of late. And Jose Mourinho has noticed - Mkhitaryan was hooked off at half-time against Huddersfield and there is a strong possibility that the manager will respond to his lack of productivity in recent games. 

    United are in need of fresh impetus and ideas going forward. Romelu Lukaku needs quality service to thrive and a wayward Mkhitaryan does not look like delivering it. With that in mind, Mourinho may entertain the possibility of sticking with Jesse Lingard who looked sharp and purposeful while scoring twice to knock Swansea out of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night as part of a Rashford-Lingard-Martial triple axis behind Lukaku. 

    It has become evident that United are missing Paul Pogba's driving runs and incisive passing and, until the Frenchman returns, Mourinho needs to use the squad depth at his disposal as a stopgap solution. While Kevin De Bruyne and Christian Eriksen have sparkled for Manchester City and Spurs respectively, the dearth of creative craft in United's recent displays has been alarming.

  3. 3 Take Lindelof out of the firing line

    Victor Lindelof isn't enjoying his first season at Old Trafford. That's okay: neither did Nemanja Vidic. The 23-year-old Swede's nascent career in England hit a shuddering nadir when he was culpable for both of Huddersfield's goals last weekend. Tom Ince danced around the centre-back in the build-up to the opening goal before his comically inept attempt at heading a long ball back to David de Gea gifted Laurent Depoitre Huddersfield's second. 

    His fragile confidence was helped somewhat by a quieter night against Swansea on Tuesday night but, then again, he was up against Oliver McBurnie, an unheralded Scot making his first start at the Liberty Stadium. With Phil Jones recovering from the injury that forced him off at the John Smith's Stadium, it would be a high-risk move for Mourinho to throw Lindelof into the lion's den against Harry Kane. 

    Don't write Lindelof off yet. He was signed on merit and there is a legitimate reason behind United's decision to spend £30million on him. However, pitting him against an unstoppable Kane may have an ugly ending from a United perspective. With Chris Smalling and Jones available, Mourinho would be wise to plump for their experience. Even that might not be enough against Kane, but Jones kept the England international quiet at Old Trafford last season, so there is a glimmer of hope. 

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  1. Who will come out on top on Saturday?

    1. Manchester United
    2. Spurs
    3. Neither - it will be a draw
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Matthew Gault

Matt is a freelance football writer who has been featured on BBC Sport, Sky Sports, The Guardian, Football Whispers and FourFourTwo among others.

Manchester United: Three tactics Jose Mourinho could deploy to beat Spurs

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