Football Expert & Columnist
Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville's heated debate on Jose Mourinho's tactics
Last Updated: 09/05/17 3:27pm
Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher enjoyed a very lively Monday Night Football debate on the subject of Jose Mourinho's tactics at Manchester United.
United have failed to score in any of their away games against top-six sides this season - the only team in the Premier League to fail to do so - with wingers Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata almost playing as full-backs in Sunday's 2-0 defeat by Arsenal.
Former Liverpool defender Carragher argued Manchester United fans should not be surprised as Mourinho has always played that way - but Neville feels he will produce more entertaining football once he has had more time to build his squad…
It's not right for a club like Manchester United not to score in those games [away against the top six]. It's not right for any team not to score in four or five games, but for Manchester United with the manager they have, the players they have on the pitch and the money they've spent it's embarrassing really that they can't score a goal. It comes from Mourinho and the way he sets up his teams.
I'm not going to go from one week saying it's a Mourinho masterclass when he gets the job done to saying it's an absolute disgrace. You've either got to back him in the way he manages or be totally against him no matter what the result is. But when you play like that you have to win.
You see the outrage of people today, but it's not a shock to me. He's done this for 10 or 15 years. That's what he does in big games and I don't care who he manages, I don't think it will ever change because he's had success doing it.
At the moment he has found a formula that's getting him through big games, but this season has not been an acceptable one in the Premier League by any stretch. I agree with Jamie in a certain sense that when he's got an inferior team to the opposition he will try and nullify completely.
What I would say is there's a variation on a theme there. If you take United [against Arsenal] there's no doubt they were a back six with Mkhitaryan and Mata - and for me that has to be adapted, moving forward. In his best teams, Mourinho has never been as defensive as that.
He's only signed four players for Manchester United. Once he's signed eight or 10 and is a year further forward I would be asking a question if he was playing a back six in all these big away games. Historically, this is an absolute freak for Jose Mourinho. He's always been second or first in terms of goalscoring and he's always been second or first in goalscoring against the top six. This season is the freak - and is probably the worst-performing team he has managed in the last 10 or 15 years.
And after their analysis an entertaining exchange of opinions followed…
CARRA: He's always had one of the best sides. He has managed top teams so you would expect him to score a lot of goals.
NEV: Chelsea, you could argue, weren't the top team when he came.
CARRA: They were one of the top teams. They were second in the league the year before. You talk about him getting these players, but what players are you talking about? He's got Paul Pogba, the most expensive player in the world and Mkhitaryan.
NEV: Would you accept he's got a squad of 24 and 20 of them are not his?
CARRA: Mourinho was talking about the league at the start of the season, so why would you be taking these tactics into these games?
NEV: This season is not good enough in terms of league performance…
CARRA: Is that because of those tactics?
NEV: No, I don't think it's the tactics. Ultimately they've not been good enough. The games where they've dropped most points have been at home against the lesser teams - Bournemouth, Hull, Stoke, Burnley and West Brom. They've had 25 shots in most of those games.
CARRA: Their record in big games isn't good you know?
NEV: I know, but where they've dropped most points and it's been disastrous is at home. They've dropped 10 or 12 points at home against stupid teams. I don't know why the wide players are so deep. Is it acceptable as a tactic at Manchester United? No.
CARRA: They're there because he wants them there.
NEV: Hang on a second… in 12 months' time I would expect Manchester United's midfield to be further forward in big games. The difference is 15 yards further forward in the wide players.
CARRA: You're talking about these players… he's bought Mkhitaryan and he's playing at left-back. At Real Madrid against Barcelona he had Di Maria, Ronaldo and Ozil in those positions.
NEV: You've chosen a game against Barcelona. Against Barcelona, in the 2008 Champions League semi-final, I saw Rooney and Park playing in a back six for 180 minutes with Ronaldo shoved up front because he wouldn't run back. Against Barcelona you always change your tactics. My view is at the moment it is overly defensive and I'm not sure why they are in a back six. He doesn't trust his defenders, probably. In 12 months' time he will have to shift that back six. They have got to be able to counter-attack from a deep position.
DAVID JONES: Are the best attacking players in the world - and that's what you're suggesting they might need - going to want to play for Manchester United when they see a game like that on Sunday? There was a report in L'Equipe that Kylian M'Bappe has already been put off by United's style.
NEV: Manchester United have the largest chequebook in the world at the moment in terms of fees. Jose Mourinho has been unbelievable in the transfer market over the years, you've got to accept that. They got £45m back for Schneiderlin and Depay and maybe if De Gea leaves it will be £60m or £70m so he's going to have £200m to spend. He has only signed four players in one transfer window, I think give him one transfer window and if he is still playing a back six in all those games next season I will be sat here saying it isn't right. At the moment if they win two trophies this season and get to next season with four or five more signings and are still playing that way I would have a question. They have to entertain at Manchester United, but at the moment you can forgive it because he doesn't have full confidence in his squad.
CARRA: Of course the whole squad is not his, but of the four players he's signed, three of them are attacking players. You're saying when they get better players in attacking positions they'll play higher up, but you've got Mkhitaryan, Pogba and Zlatan.
NEV: Pogba and Zlatan weren't playing yesterday.
CARRA: What about the Liverpool game earlier on in the season?
NEV: When they went into that game they were under big pressure and weren't playing well. It was a disaster, they were all over the place, they'd lost a load of games and they were dropping points.
CARRA: Do you think Jose will go with what you associate with Manchester United? Listen, I'm not criticising Jose Mourinho. He changes things, he does different things and he's won European Cups.
NEV: I think the style is a lot better than last season, personally, as a Manchester United fan. When they went open against City they got battered and he's shut up shop in big games from then because he thought they weren't good enough to take on big teams punch for punch.
DAVID JONES: Would you expect after work in the summer, that Manchester United will be challenging for the title next season?
NEV: I thought they should challenge for the title this season, so the performance in the league this season is unacceptable. There's 12 points I can point towards at home that would have them close to Chelsea - and yes, they have to get the wide players 15 or 20 yards further forward up the pitch in big matches against City, Liverpool, Arsenal. It's not good, but in his first season when he's obviously found the squad's not as good as he thought it would be, he deserves another 12 months. I don't think he was like that with Robben and Duff or Hazard and Willian at Chelsea. They were never that deep. They were compact, but never that deep.
CARRA: But it's not just that. There's different ways of nullifying teams. Whenever he goes away from home he will always look to stop the opposition first. They are the only team not to score away [against the top six] and that can't be right for Manchester United. That comes from the manager's tactics and the set-up.
NEV: I agree this year's nowhere near good enough…
CARRA: You're talking as if they've got the worst players in the world. He's signed Pogba and Mkhitaryan. He's got Mata, Martial and Rashford, the best young player in the country. How can you not score in those games?
NEV: Zlatan is injured and has had a good season. You called him player of the year the other week.
CARRA: I know - and they still haven't scored in them games with him!
NEV: Ultimately, historically, he has always got it right in those games. What I would say is the squad is nowhere near as good as he thought it would be and how they've not won some of those games at home is ridiculous. I do agree the wide players in away games are 15 yards too deep. Another 15 yards further forward and I think you would have a good shape.
DAVID JONES: It's good to talk. It's good to get it out there boys.
NEV: He likes Jose Mourinho!
CARRA: Yeah, especially when he doesn't score any goals away from home, I love him!