Manchester United’s 3-1 defeat to arch-rivals Manchester City on Sunday hasn’t exactly prompted an inquest – more a collective sigh of inevitability.
Anthony Martial’s penalty threatened to make the last half an hour or so difficult for Pep Guardiola’s side, but the Red Devils never really posed much of a threat.
Tellingly, only Fulham – who have now sacked Slavisa Jokanovic – have kept fewer clean sheets this season than Jose Mourinho’s men.
The Portuguese was celebrating his 300th game in charge, to use the term loosely, but he was ultimately left with even more questions about his decision-making and tactical set-up.
Paul Scholes has been among his most vocal critics for starting matches too defensively and it backfired yet again at the Etihad, United sitting back but conceding within 12 minutes for the second league game in a row.
Mourinho has a clear problem on his hands. It seems he knows how he wants his players to play, but they are simply not defending well enough and their entire XI looks disorganised.
Youtuber ‘Nouman’ has hit the nail on the head with his latest analysis video.
UNITED WERE DEFENSIVELY NAIVE
It explains a number of key errors United made having initially lined up in a 4-3-3 formation but in reality, dropping into a 4-5-1.
On paper, you could see what Mourinho was trying to do – he clearly thought there would be safety in numbers and did not want to let Sergio Aguero or Raheem Sterling out of his defenders’ sights.
The way it transpired, United ended up making some big mistakes. Chris Smalling and Ashley Young were particularly guilty of breaking the defensive line in order to follow the City attackers when they dropped a little deeper. City could then use this tactic to open up space.
On the other hand, when United’s defence did sit back, the likes of Nemanja Matic would push up, thereby creating a big gap in midfield – which is never a wise move with David Silva on the pitch.
To be fair, City executed their own game plan very well and were able to exploit United’s weaknesses.
For example, their wingers stayed out wide and were not tempted to be drawn into the middle, which proved an important factor in the first goal.
United’s full-backs fell for City’s tricks hook, line and sinker. Whether you put that down to Guardiola’s nous or Mourinho’s naivety, it had terrible consequences for the latter’s side, who now sit eighth and 12 points off the summit.