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Could Ander Herrera help to bring balance for Manchester United?
Manchester United came from behind to win 2-1 at Bournemouth
Last Updated: 03/11/18 4:01pm
Manchester United were woeful in the first half against Bournemouth but came back brilliantly to win 2-1 at the Vitality Stadium. Marcus Rashford came off the bench to score the late winner but perhaps it was the introduction of Ander Herrera that could provide Jose Mourinho with the balance this team needs, writes Adam Bate.
For at least the third time in a month, Jose Mourinho's players did their best to dispel the notion that this is simply a case of a team failing to fight for their manager. After coming back from two down to beat Newcastle and battling back into it at Chelsea, Manchester United came from behind to become the first team to win at Bournemouth this season.
No team in the Premier League has won more points from losing positions this season and that is testament to both their determination and their quality. Marcus Rashford came off the bench to score the winner and, while a draw might have been deemed a fair result, there is no doubt that United were by far the better side in the second half.
But Mourinho is also acutely aware that United must start games better if they are to make up ground on the top four - and, in particular, that means being much more stable at the back. For all the fight that his team showed in turning this game around, Bournemouth could have sealed the points inside 20 minutes. United were that bad.
Rashford snatches late win
Marcus Rashford scored a stoppage-time winner as Manchester United came from behind to snatch a dramatic 2-1 victory at Bournemouth on Saturday.
Ryan Fraser went through one-on-one with David de Gea in the fourth minute and saw his low shot saved, then Callum Wilson and Junior Stanislas both went close before the former slotted home the opening goal. By that stage, Mourinho had already been yelling at his players to wake up, seemingly in shock at what he was witnessing.
There is a busy week ahead, with a trip to Turin followed by the daunting prospect of a Manchester derby away next weekend. But there was no excuse for such sloppiness given that they have benefited from their first week of uninterrupted preparation since August, with neither midweek fixtures nor international commitments affecting their schedule.
Mourinho himself pointed to the quality of the work that they had put in on the training ground and, in particular, the focus on pressing their opponents. But the sight of Juan Mata and Paul Pogba wandering forward only to get caught out by Lewis Cook's reverse pass in behind them was alarming - and it was not the only example of lackadaisical play.
Midway through the first half, Bournemouth had produced six shots to United's one and the visitors looked far too easy to play against. The team appeared imbalanced defensively, with Fred failing to protect Ashley Young and every one of United's midfielders being guilty of failing to track their runners. That is so uncharacteristic for a Mourinho team.
Just how much that annoyed him was apparent when speaking to the media in his press conference after the game. "It looked like we do not work tactically during the week, which is the worst feeling for me," he acknowledged. "I feel really frustrated."
Petr Cech once kept 24 clean sheets in a single season for his Chelsea side - a Premier League record. But United have had just one so far this season with only the notoriously leaky Fulham defence having kept fewer than that. The contrast with Manchester City is stark. Even if Ederson had not saved a shot this season, United would still have conceded more goals.
It needs to be addressed and perhaps the selection of Ander Herrera could be the start of the solution. The midfielder has started only one Premier League game this season - and that was on the right side of a back three against Tottenham in August. His introduction was not an obvious one given that United were going in search of a winning goal but it did help.
Herrera provides that little bit more bite in midfield and his willingness to run towards his own goal with the same enthusiasm that some of his United team-mates show going in the other direction gave Mourinho some of the stability and balance that was lacking in his absence. It served as a positive change in that it allowed United to start sustaining attacks.
"Herrera was the one that changed the game by giving the balance, the high pressure and the organisation that the team didn't have until then," Mourinho explained afterwards. "He is a player of balance. Not an incredible creator or goalscorer but a player of balance and knowledge. He understands what I want and what the team needed today."
Herrera was the one that changed the game by giving the balance, the high pressure and the organisation that the team didn't have until then.
Jose Mourinho on Ander Herrera
It appears that this search for balance is an ongoing challenge for Mourinho with this team. His instinct is to build from a solid foundation but when United lack attacking cohesion and the chances do not flow, the chants for the team to attack echo around the ground - something that Mourinho also referenced after this result.
"When the team is really defensive and you have a more defensive mind-set and base it on that, then the team doesn't develop enough in other areas," he explained. "I'm trying to find the balance where we develop the team in the second and third phase of attack. When we are in control we have no problems but when the opponent is in control, we have problems."
How much control Mourinho will be able to exercise in the coming games is unclear given that they will face Juventus and Manchester City - two of the best teams in Europe - before the week is out. But that only made this three points even more important. And perhaps the reminder of Herrera's qualities will provide a potential solution for the challenges ahead.