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The 'United Way'? Jose should be applauded for doing it defensive way

By Matt Gatward

Published 19/10/2016

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho felt the need to re-enter the post-match press conference at Anfield on Monday night to make clear that his Manchester United team had actually had 42 per cent possession, not the 35 per cent that had been mentioned moments earlier - by himself as well as a journalist.

The Portuguese preferred to trust the higher figure presented by his in-house statistics team and disputed those put forward by Opta.

But it's a moot point. What is not up for debate is that United sat deep with men behind the ball, determined not to concede against Liverpool and were happy with a draw. A point is a point - especially when you are visiting a team that has scored nine goals in their previous two home games and who had been widely predicted to blow Mourinho's team away.

This tactic - United were often in a 6-3-1 formation with Marcus Rashford and Ashley Young as deep as full-backs - has appalled some United supporters who remember Sir Matt Busby's famous words to Sir Bobby Charlton: "All those lads you see going to the factory, they come to watch you on Saturday," he said.

"They have boring jobs, so you have to give them something they will enjoy."

Phone-ins were awash with United fans moaning that Monday's performance was not the 'United Way'.

Ahhh… the 'United Way'. Sean Bones, vice-chairman of the Manchester United Supporters' Trust, once explained what he sees as the 'United Way'. "We try to win games with style and flair," he said. "If you want to pigeon-hole it, it is two wingers, overlapping full-backs and attacking midfielders."

There was not much overlapping happening on Monday.

Bones added: "But, really, there is far more to it than that. It is almost a state of mind."

Well, the state of mind on Monday was to get a point. The 'United Way' is maybe a luxury the club cannot afford at the moment.

On Sky Sports Ryan Giggs, an exponent of the 'United Way' if ever there was one, accepted that going to Anfield and leaving with a draw, having dug in and shown limited ambition, was an acceptable method in the current Old Trafford climate. Gary Neville agreed.

Giggs believes it is acceptable as long as United beat Fenerbahce and Chelsea on Sunday. But while victory in the Europa League should be expected tomorrow, another Mourinho defensive masterclass will surely be the order of the day at Stamford Bridge. Another point will be a good return.

In October of last season, Louis van Gaal's United visited the Emirates. They played Juan Mata and Memphis - neither renowned for their defence - out wide and were 3-0 down to Arsenal inside 20 minutes. Is that the 'United Way'?

Surely most supporters would rather take a point from a bore draw than a hammering. The currency of defensive discipline is somewhat undervalued.

Earning a point away from home at your biggest rivals is a good result. It is what winning league titles is built on. It's how Mourinho won titles with Chelsea: draw away against challengers, beat them at home.

It is early days for Mourinho at United and he claimed that the attacking side of their game will come.

He needs time to build his own squad, to instil his ideas into his players. For now, he is building a solid base.

United fans may have to swallow their pride. It was always going to be this way to begin with under Mourinho - and he should be applauded, not attacked for that.

Belfast Telegraph

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