Although Jose Mourinho is under pressure as Manchester United manager, we probably shouldn’t forget that – although defeat to Chelsea was humiliating in many ways – the Portuguese manager’s definition of success might be a little different to everyone else’s.
Last week, United offered nothing in the second half against Liverpool – not in an attacking sense anyway – and naturally enough it was seen as a bad performance and a bad result. For Mourinho, reality is a little bit different: he came for a clean sheet and a point, and on that score it was the perfect performance.
You can argue whether or not that’s a tactic befitting a Manchester United manager if you want to, but it’s clear that his team did exactly what was required of them.
One player who stood out in that game was man of the match, Ander Herrera. The Spaniard isn’t known for his grittiness, but his role against Liverpool was that of a hard hitting midfielder in some ways – he covered ground when needed, he tackled, blocked and made interceptions.
All of these things are crucial to his team, and they’re also crucial in FanDuel, where those kinds of contributions win points. It’s also interesting that, on FanDuel, Herrera was also United’s highest points scorer. FanDuel will match your first deposit all the way up to £400 – so perhaps Ander Herrera is a man to win you some cash this weekend, too.
What it highlights is Herrera’s transition from being a tidy midfielder to being a harder, tougher midfielder – the kind of midfielder that Jose Mourinho likes, the kind of midfielder who contributes to his team, and also the kind of midfielder who makes up for the defensive deficiencies of Paul Pogba, especially in the bigger games.
In the Chelsea game, United had more possession, they had more shots and more key passes than the home side – yet they still lost 4-0. That can’t be down to luck, but it does show that their biggest players weren’t showing up on the big occasion.
The light in the void for United is Ander Herrera.