As I walked towards the cafe that I was going to watch Manchester United against Galatasaray with my friends, all of us, including the Galatasaray fans, hoped to watch the revival of the great Manchester United. The Premier League has not been the same since United dropped from the top of the league, something is always missing when they are out of the competition. Nevertheless, the long days of agony led United to make a deal with their greatest enemy, Jose Mourinho. United gave the keys of the club to one of the best bandits in football history, such is their craving for success.
My initial experience with this new United was not satisfactory for me, given Mourinho was still conservative against a relatively weak Galatasaray. It is still the same Mourinho that stopped the Barcelona machine in 2010 and collapsed after only few weeks with Chelsea last season. United seem like a dangerous opponent against those who like to play their own game, except they fail to do so. The problem is, as it has always been with Mourinho, United seem to have few weapons at their disposal when they are expected to score.
First of all, Mourinho's defensive strategy is still the same, all players gather in their half when the opponents have the ball and they confront the build-ups with three or four blocks of men, which get tighter and tougher as the ball gets closer to the goal. The main goal is disrupting the opponent's build-up play when the opponents focus on attack and leave space behind that can be exploited. This strategy makes sense against classic ball possession teams, but Mourinho has forgotten why he was not able to implement this style against regular English teams last season.
As Atletico Madrid and Diego Simeone reformed Mourinho's strategy, those who opted for counter-attack started to press in the opponent's half, because classic ball possession also revised itself to a point where accepting the game in their half became too dangerous for counter-attacking teams. Thus, they took the danger from their half, and trapped it in the opponent's half by pressing the opponent's defense. In contrast to Mourinho's static defensive style, Simeone's defense is dynamic and more attack given it changes it's rhythm and conducts shock-presses.
The reason why Galatasaray seemed so effective against United in the first half was that they did not rush to United's penalty box and patiently circulate the ball, which distorted Mourinho's static defense. When Mourinho changed his plan to disrupt Galatasaray before the ball had gotten out of their half, it allowed United to score goal within minutes. The fragile Galatasaray defense was not ready for such intense pressing and they could not get the ball out of their half, which can happen to a lot of teams who are exposed to such a press. Therefore, there is no logic behind in leaving the initiative to the opponent, a team must have the upper hand regardless of whether they are defensive or attacking.
Even though I have almost zero sympathy for Mourinho's game, I must acknowledge that he is a true tactician and he has managed to adapt his game to the demands of the status-quo in the past. If United are to come back, he must accept that the world has developed his ideas up to a point where he cannot survive unless adopts more modern tactics.