Is Mour­inho get­ting his mojo back?

> Man­ager is back to his old self af­ter spoil­ing Liver­pool’s win­ning run

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

IN SUC­CESS­FULLY stymy­ing a strongly fan­cied Liver­pool team – and sow­ing a bit of mis­chief with his post-match com­ments – Manchester United man­ager Jose Mour­inho looked like some­thing ap­proach­ing his old self.

Mour­inho (left) has made an un­steady start to life at Old Traf­ford, with three suc­ces­sive de­feats in mid-Septem­ber threat­en­ing to de­rail United’s sea­son be­fore it had re­ally be­gun.

But while they lie sev­enth in the Pre­mier League ta­ble, their dis­play in Mon­day’s 0-0 draw at An­field sug­gested Mour­inho’s meth­ods could yet bring about an end to the club’s three-year slump.

“United did ex­actly what Mour­inho would have wanted,” said for­mer United cap­tain turned Sky Sports an­a­lyst Gary Neville.

“There’s no rea­son at this stage to not trust Mour­inho, as a Manchester United fan. There’s no point sit­ting here and say­ing, ‘Well, can he do it this time?’ He’s done it wher­ever he’s been.”

United’s sti­fling dis­play at An­field brought to mind Chelsea’s 2-0 win there un­der Mour­inho in April 2014, which served to tor­pedo Liver­pool’s hopes of league ti­tle glory.

United adopted a six-man de­fence at times, wingers Mar­cus Rash­ford and Ash­ley Young drop­ping back to as­sist the full­backs, while Marouane Fel­laini helped shore up the cen­tre of the pitch.

Liver­pool have run riot on oc­ca­sion this sea­son – win­ning 4-3 at Ar­se­nal, thrash­ing cham­pi­ons Le­ices­ter City 4-1 and crush­ing Hull City 5-1 – but against United they mus­tered only three attempts on tar­get.

The Daily Tele­graph called it “vin­tage Mour­inho” and the Daily Mir­ror said he had “out-thought” his op­po­site num­ber Jurgen Klopp.

Liver­pool cap­tain Jor­dan Hen­der­son con­ceded that Mour­inho’s men “did a job” on his side.

Mour­inho’s rep­u­ta­tion was tar­nished by Chelsea’s lam­en­ta­ble league ti­tle de­fence last sea­son, but he was up to his old tricks in front of the tele­vi­sion cam­eras af­ter the game at An­field.

United, he said, had shown Liver­pool were “not the last won­der of the world” and he even re­turned to the press con­fer­ence room to quib­ble statis­tics that showed his side only had 35 per­cent of pos­ses­sion.

Mour­inho was seen as a bad fit for United in some quar­ters due to the club’s at­tack­ing tra­di­tions and for­mer mid­fielder Paul Sc­holes com­mented re­cently that the team did not have an “iden­tity”.

But sup­port­ers were broadly sup­port­ive of his tac­tics at An­field, with 85% of re­spon­dents to a poll by lo­cal news­pa­per the Manchester Evening News say­ing he had found the “per­fect game plan”.

The steely show­ing against Liver­pool al­lows United to ap­proach their next three fix­tures with a re­newed sense of pur­pose.

They host Fener­bahce in the Europa League to­day, need­ing a vic­tory to avoid fall­ing be­hind in the con­test for a knock­out-phase place.

Mour­inho re­turns to Chelsea in the league on Sun­day be­fore another meet­ing with his neme­sis Pep Guardi­ola, the Manchester City man­ager, in the League Cup next Wed­nes­day.

The dash­ing foot­ball of the Alex Fer­gu­son era re­mains a dis­tant mem­ory, but for for­mer stal­wart Ryan Giggs, Mour­inho ap­pears to have at least stopped the rot.

“It’s some­thing we ac­cept at the mo­ment,” said Giggs, who worked as an as­sis­tant to Mour­inho’s pre­de­ces­sor, Louis van Gaal.

“If you lose (at Liver­pool), the pres­sure is on. Then you’ve got to win against Chelsea, got to win against Fener­bahce.

“It’s about get­ting back to the top. We had 35% pos­ses­sion (against Liver­pool). With Louis it was 65%, but we weren’t win­ning.” – AFP

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