Manchester United are preparing to face Arsenal tonight and Unai Emery’s side will feel they have a real opportunity to clinch a first Premier League win at Old Trafford since 2006.
The Gunners are unbeaten in 19 games and the Spaniard has given them some backbone once again; United are in poor form and suffering from a bout of defensive injuries.
Back in February 2016, Louis van Gaal’s United were facing an injury list even longer than Jose Mourinho’s when they welcomed a title-chasing Arsenal side to Old Trafford.
What happened next offers Mourinho a blueprint to success against the odds versus the Gunners…
Opportunity from adversity
Van Gaal’s response to United’s injury issues was to hand opportunities to youngsters; Guillermo Varela, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford all took to the field.
Michael Carrick was at centre half and United decided the best way to yield the pressure on a makeshift defence was to attack their visitors; the same will be true tonight.
The youthful look of the lineup meant van Gaal’s possession game was infused by a healthy helping of fearlessness and pace as United stunned the title-chasers to win 3-2.
The lesson for Mourinho
Mourinho only has makeshift options available to him defensively tonight, but his natural instinct will be to protect that impromptu unit by sitting back.
Instead, he should look to surprise Arsenal, taking advantage of their poor first half record and getting on the front foot before Emery’s side have the opportunity to recover.
That would get the fans onside behind a team that is not generating any goodwill at present and represents United’s best chance of getting a result.