It’s a well-known fact that Jose Mourinho has a penchant for the defensive side of football. Since his first foray into the big time with FC Porto, to the current crop he presides over at Manchester United, physicality and a strong back line have been the fulcrum of the teams Mourinho has built – and sides Mourinho builds are successful. Even whilst being labelled the footballing anti-Christ and a master of the dark arts in football, he has started setting these foundations at Manchester United with a sterling rearguard showing last season which has prompted the focus to concentrate elsewhere. And coming August 2017, a more attack minded approach may beckon.
Manchester United finished the campaign with the second best defensive record in the league. 29 goals were conceded last season as the Red Devils faltered to sixth place and that is a total bested only by Tottenham Hotspur. Conceding 0.79 goals a game and with an overall tackling percentage of 71%, it’s clear the problems lay with a lack of potency and not a flimsy foundation. The first brick laid was the defiance over the David de Gea situation and how Mourinho has clung onto his prized asset, it is a situation that goes further than just the simple fact of him being the best in the world and he knows a winning defence has the best goalkeeper. The preference over Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling and the rebirth of Phil Jones showed his desire for the physical side and have left the bar set for any coming in. Tuanzebe and Fosu-Mensah being the two Academy graduates to make the bigger impact defensively is no coincidence either.
So we all know that defensively United are almost as sound as can possibly be. Bolstered by the additions of Victor Lindelof (who can grow and will) and Nemanja Matic (who speaks for himself) one should expect Mourinho’s men to be rather stubborn to break down this season. The manager knows this, and he is now seeking to improve on the errors of last year and how toothless United were and he’s started in the perfect place. Signing Romelu Lukaku is guaranteeing goals getting scored. The league’s second best defence, signing the league’s second highest goalscorer is perfectly executed poetic licence and a partnership that will be striving to improve after missing out on being top dogs.
Goals coming from elsewhere will be the next challenge and is again being addressed. Bulking Marcus Rashford up to a gargantuan stature gives a different element to his game and makes him a more rounded threat, he has goals surging through his veins, waiting to burst out and now being given the platform. Deploying Henrikh Mkhitaryan in a more deadly position is another way goals are being sought from all areas and allowing Paul Pogba the freedom to roam is surely a recipe for success. And his final target being a winger shows his intent further. Mourinho wants the attack to growl.and bite, he’s done with his defensive building, the blocks are cemented in and it is time to finish the house. All good sides are based on their defence, Mourinho is the master of this art.