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How Mourinho's tactics - on and off the pitch - got Man Utd off to the perfect start

Published on: 8 days ago

They might not have set the world alight, but Manchester United's 2-1 win over Leicester on Friday night was still a significant result and performance.

It has been a difficult summer for United boss Jose Mourinho and I said last week that I felt he needed to find some harmony within the club.

He got that from his team's display at Old Trafford, from the way they started so well to how they saw the game out at the end.

It was not perfect by any means, but who cares? They were not playing their strongest team, and it is right at the start of the season.

It was definitely a positive night for United, who picked up three points against difficult opponents - and there is lots more to come from them.

Mourinho was full of praise for his players'This is Old Trafford, and we are United - this is how we play'

Mourinho said after the game that his side showed glimpses of what they are capable of, and they certainly made an impressive start.

Yes, they went ahead inside the first three minutes through Paul Pogba's penalty, but what was important was the way they went after Leicester right from the off.

United were outstanding in the early stages and I think the Foxes were in shock at the way they came out of the blocks and took control of the game.

It was almost as if they were saying 'look this is Old Trafford, and we are United - this is how we play'.

There was a fantastic atmosphere inside the ground because United were playing the kind of football their fans want to see and showing them something they had not seen for a long time, which was a bit of a spark.

Their first thought when they got the ball was always to get it forward and they were trying to get their wide players high up the pitch, which is the United way.

It was very exciting to watch for the first 20 or 25 minutes but, when they took their foot off the gas, Leicester came right back into the game.

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Things were a lot more even for the rest of the match but I also think Mourinho will be happy with the way his side managed the game when Leicester were posing a threat.

I know they had a lapse right at the end when Jamie Vardy pulled a goal back for the Foxes but, otherwise, they had the kind of focus they needed.

That was down to the organisation and discipline of the senior players that Mourinho could call upon, and how hard they worked together as a unit when they did not have the ball.

It was telling that he made Pogba his skipper in the absence of the injured Antonio Valencia, after all the speculation that the France midfielder is unhappy and wants to leave.

Mourinho got it right. Pogba responded with a strong all-round performance, as well as scoring the opening goal after what I have to say was a very strange run-up for his penalty.

Jose is the type of manager who gives someone the captaincy for the right reasons and I think he decided to give Pogba some responsibility for managing the game and the players around him, which was a very clever move.

'Shaw is the best left-back at the club'

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Shaw's performance 'very complete' - Mourinho

Pogba was not the only United player to impress me. Juan Mata was brilliant at picking the right pass and Andreas Pereira was also very steady.

On his United debut, Fred did well at what I would call the ugly work, which was winning the ball back and not trying to be too clever when he had it, and I thought Alexis Sanchez's work without the ball was superb too.

There are some attacking players who might as well not be in the side if they are not scoring or creating, but Sanchez does all of that and also works hard and breaks up the opposition play when United do not have possession.

Sanchez ticks all the boxes you want from your forward, so it is very hard to leave him out.

And I was delighted for Luke Shaw to get his first goal in senior football.

Mourinho has been critical of Shaw in the past but he was full of praise for him afterwards, and rightly so.

Luke made one mistake - towards the end of the game when he was caught in possession inside his own area by Vardy - but he will not need to be told about it.

He is the best left-back at the club when he is fit and flying so I am glad he has got his goal, because it should take a bit of pressure off him.

Lindelof and Bailly - together at the back?

Mourinho did not get the new centre-half he wanted in the transfer window and, from the comments he made after the Leicester match about being a head coach instead of a manager, he is still not happy about it.

But considering Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly had played so little together in their time at United - just 99 minutes in total before Friday's game - they looked pretty solid and sturdy at the back.

Bailly can be a bit rash and possibly needs a voice in his ear as he is about to dive into a tackle to say 'stand up, stand up' but he got away with it against Leicester and is clearly a good defender.

As I was saying on BBC Radio 5 live on Friday, United have a very strong squad. If you have round pegs in round holes, and all of them are doing the right job at the same time, then you are going to do well.

The best news for Mourinho is that it looks like there were will be a few battles going on for places in his first XI over the next few weeks, all over the pitch.

And I don't think there were any negatives for him on Friday,

Yes, Marcus Rashford missed a couple of half-chances, but there was nothing clear-cut, while Romelu Lukaku should have scored when he was clean through but Kasper Schmeichel made a superb save.

That's not surprising, because I know from experience that everyone is a bit rusty for the first game back.

United still got the win despite probably only being at 70%, and everyone who was involved is going to be fitter next time. I am looking forward to seeing how their season progresses from here.

Dion Dublin was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

Source: bbc.com

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