Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford as Tottenham Hotspur boss could be the first opportunity to see if he has changed his management style during his 11 month hiatus.
The footballing world was left shocked when Spurs announced the departure of Mauricio Pochettino just five and a half months after guiding the club to the Champions League final.
Enter the pantomime villain, Mr Mourinho himself, who was announced the morning after the night before.
The return of the Portuguese manager has given the Premier League that additional box office feel, but it will be interesting to see how Mourinho can turn around an ageing team that looks in transition and requiring a major rebuild.
Mourinho has got off to a good start, but he often does, the test for the Portuguese coach will be whether he can keep his Spurs players happy and buying into his methods for a number of seasons.
Made a good start
The former United manager started off with a 3-2 London Derby win at West Ham, which happened to be the early Saturday kick off, in the first Premier League match after the international break.
It was perfect for Mourinho to grab the limelight, headlines and announce his return on the big stage.
A win at the London Stadium was followed up with back-to-back home wins against Olympiakos and an injury stricken Bournemouth side.
The games have been entertaining and filled with goals, they were 2-0 down against the Greek side.
But Mourinho showed his ruthless streak by sacrificing Eric Dier on the half hour mark for the creative Christian Eriksen.
It was a decision that paid off as Spurs steamrolled the visitors and went on to win 4-2 in Mourinho’s first home game in charge, which sealed their place in the Champions League last 16.
Even against Bournemouth with Mourinho’s team leading 3-0, Eddie Howe’s side brought it back to 3-2 and had a great chance to snatch a point.
Mourinho will be delighted that his side have scored three goals in his opening three games, but he will want the defensive frailties to be addressed.
In the days building up to the United game, Mourinho will be working overtime with his players on the training pitch to improve their defensive shape.
The worry for United fans is with Mourinho coming into the eagerly anticipated midweek return to the Theatre of Dreams with a 100% record, could a Mourinho masterclass be on the cards?
How would he set his new team up?
The trip to Manchester would represent Mourinho’s first big match against one of the so-called big six.
A blueprint of Mourinho’s success as a manager has been on how he sets his sides up in the big away games against the top sides in a safety-first manner.
Mourinho always saw a draw away to the big teams as a positive result and felt that his pragmatic approach and defensive tactics would stifle teams.
There were occasions during his reign at United where Marcus Rashford was pretty much deployed as a full-back away to Anfield, every time we came up against Chelsea, Ander Herrera would follow Eden Hazard everywhere the Belgian went and there would always be a role for the physical Marouane Fellaini to play.
Mourinho’s United were given the label of parking the bus and while a point away to the big teams could have been enough to win Premier Leagues a decade ago, the consistency of Liverpool and Manchester City has shown that you cannot afford to drop points in any game.
That has been the concern with Mourinho in recent years the game has evolved but his management style hadn’t.
There is no denying that Mourinho is a great tactician and he will have seen first hand our struggles against sides that sit back with a low block in a compact shape.
He will be aware of the dangers Dan James, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial bring, he will try and make it a chess match and outfox Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in a tactical duel.
Could he go on the offensive?
After having nearly a year to recharge, the footballing world are eagerly awaiting to see if Mourinho is going to adopt a different style of play.
It seems highly unlikely that he would fall into the same trap that Frank Lampard did on the opening day of the season and naively give United’s speedsters acres of grass to run into.
Mourinho will know that a heavy defeat to his former employees would give the critics free reign to question whether he is the right man for the job.
The three time Premier League winner will be coming back to his former home with the motive of pulling off one of his famous smash and grab performances.
With the likes of Heung-Min Son, a rejuvenated Dele Ali and Harry Kane at his disposal, he knows he possesses the firepower to punish United. The trio come in to the clash bang in form and firing on all cylinders.
Will he be adventurous and unleash Lucas Moura as well or will he go for a strong midfield and set his side up to impose themselves on United and win the physical battle.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Mourinho opts to go with the powerful combination of Eric Dier, Moussa Sissoko and Tanguy Ndombele ahead of the technicians Harry Winks, Giovani Lo Celso and Eriksen.
United will be eager to get one over their former manager, but we need to beware of the wounded animal.
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