Jose Mourinho made one fatal tactical error on Saturday in the lunchtime kickoff against Arsenal, and it was one that in my opinion ultimately cost United the three points.
United needed to send a statement out to the rest of the Premier League after a poor start to the season, and a win over Arsenal would have been the perfect way to do that. And his side looked like they would secure the three points at Old Trafford, a venue in which Arsenal have not won in ten years.
It took a while for United to break through a resilient Arsenal back line, but Wayne Rooney found space in the box and pulled the ball back to Juan Mata, who stayed cool to fire the Red Devils ahead midway through the second half. It looked like it was going to be a perfect display from a Jose Mourinho point of view.
The midfield of Michael Carrick, Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera along with the defence of Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Antonio Valencia all managed to keep Arsenal’s danger men quiet throughout most of the game. Alexis Sanchez had minimal impact, and we saw very little of Mesut Ozil, who failed to have a shot on goal or create a single chance. Arsenal were extremely ineffective going forward.
Despite this, and that fact that Arsenal had created next to nothing for most of the game, Mourinho decided to apply his trademark tactic and sit back and defend what he had. We could see a distinct change in the setup with just under ten minutes to go, United just sat back.
This allowed Arsenal more time on the ball and in the end it was two Arsene Wenger substitutes that did the business for the Frenchman. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain beat his man down the right and delivered a delightful cross towards the back post where Olivier Giroud was waiting to nod the ball past De Gea and snatch a late point for the Gunners.
In the end, it was not that United being unlucky that cost them the three points like Mourinho claims. It was the fact that Mourinho instructed his team to sit back in the latter stages of the game. Arsenal offered nothing going forward, not even on the break up until that point. If Mourinho had kept things the same, I am certain that the Red Devils would have walked away with a 1-0 win and all three points.
Will this error make Mourinho change his ways? I very much doubt it. Have your say in the comments section below.