José Mourinho is hard to love but he’s also impossible to ignore.
Since taking over from Louis van Gaal last year, the Portuguese has brought swagger back to Old Trafford. United haven’t been hated this much in years and most of that is down to their irascible coach.
This week, even his own fans weren’t immune from the spitting fire as he criticised them for grumbling about the soul-destroying nature of the victory over Tottenham.
On Sunday, United entertain the latest victims of Mourinho’s shock doctrine – Chelsea were a basket case by the time the Portuguese left a few years ago, just as Real Madrid were before that. For now, though, his slash ‘n’ burn management style is getting results.
Here are four ways he could set his side up to beat Chelsea on Sunday.
1 Play Fellaini further forward
The Afroman had enjoyed a stellar return to form this season, scoring four goals before being kept out for a month through injury. This week he returned to training and Mourinho should give serious consideration to restoring him to the starting line-up.
Chelsea are all over the shop defensively right now, lacking leadership and organisation. Throwing both Fellaini and Lukaku into set pieces should terrify a shell-shocked backline still struggling to get over their horror show at Roma in the mid-week fixture.
2 Press Fabregas into submission
No Chelsea player has lost possession more times than the Spaniard this season. It’s a shocking statistic for a man whose career is built on ball-retention and vision but it encapsulates the depths to which Fabregas’ form has plummeted in the past twelve months.
Radja Nainggollan and Diego Perotti drove straight through him on Tuesday night, leaving Tiemoué Bakayoko to fend for himself. United would do well to adopt a similar approach on Sunday, using the terrier-like Ander Herrera to snap at his compatriot’s heels. Experience shows that it’ll only be a matter of time before Fabregas submits.
3 Release Mkhitaryan
Mourinho will have noted how frequently Diego Perotti managed to breach Chelsea’s defensive lines in the Stadio Olimpico. The Argentine even got a goal after bypassing the Blue’s midfield to finish past a defenceless Thibaut Courtois.
The Portuguese manager needs to exploit his opponents’ nervous defending but, to do that, he must do something he hasn’t quite managed – trust Henrik Mkhitaryan to deliver.
The Armenian only managed 45 minutes against Benfica on Wednesday after which Paul Scholes criticised him for a lack of consistency. Until January, however, the 28-year-old is the best they’ve got at playing between the lines. When he wants to, he can deliver world-class performances and Sunday's match would be as good a place to start as any.
4 Give Martial a chance
A more unlikely suggestion, but one that Mourinho should give thought to, is to give the young Frenchman a chance this weekend.
Anthony Martial remains inconsistent, but his pace and control could wreak havoc against Chelsea, especially if he’s allowed to turn and run at the defence.
If David Luiz doesn’t get himself sent off, the pace of an attack combining Marcus Rashford, Ashley Young and Martial could turn his famous locks grey.
How do you think Mourinho will beat Chelsea on Sunday? Let us know in the comments below
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