Jose Mourinho era at Manchester United officially kicked on as the Red Devils took on AFC Bournemouth and thrashed them to a 3-1 victory at the Vitality stadium. Last season also, their last fixture was with Bournemouth and they had the exact same score-line. Ever since then, a lot has changed both on and off the field for United, and the result? Clearly visible.
They say that a good manager is the foundation of any victorious team – which Ranieri proved last season with Leicester City. Jose Mourinho replaced Louis van Gaal as manager and things have worked out for them, as he has made significant changes on field. After a long time did United play in a different formation, and also new signings have become crucial elements in their game play.
Back when Van Gaal was in charge, he used a 4-1-4-1 formation back in May. Michael Carrick played behind a midfield four of Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Rooney and Anthony Martial, with breakthrough star Marcus Rashford leading from the front.
Since Mourinho took charge, Rashford’s place in the starting line-up was replaced by United’s new super acquisition – star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Sunday – while Mourinho also paired Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini in the midfield, behind an attacking trio of Rooney, Martial and Mata. He also changed the defence, and deployed Eric Bailly and Luke Shaw in place of the suspended Chris Smalling and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.
Another major difference was the fact that Mourinho’s United did not obsess much with possession. There was a decline in possession (it went from 66.3 per cent to 52.6 per cent) and also registered fewer passes (677 to 560), which means that this squad aims at playing more direct football that actually yields some positive results.
Even their goal-scoring looked a lot sharper, when compared to their performance against Bournemouth on their last fixture the previous season. Back then, United spent more time camped around the Cherries’ box, waiting for the opportunity to trickle in through their defence with neat passing moves. On Sunday, however, Mata capitalised on a back-pass, Rooney pounced on a Martial shot and Ibrahimovic fired in a long-range drive. Brings back pleasant memories, indeed.
This could be a sign of better things to come. Henrikh Mkhitaryan came on as a second half sub and Pogba is likely to play in their next game against Southampton – two players who have the skill and and ability to majorly influence the game. Mourinho has started out on the right foot and it remains to be seen if he is able to build on this momentum and continue through.
When Pep was signed on, the fans expected something big and a close 2-1 home win over Sunderland – that happening only because of an 87th-minute own goal – is probably not how they would’ve liked things to go down on their opening game.
However, compare that to Manuel Pellegrini’s time at Manchester City, and a lot of notable differences popped up.
City’s final game of the 2015/16 season 1-1 was a draw at Swansea and they finished fourth. However, the stakes are a lot higher this season and Guardiola has splurged quite a bit in the transfer market to bring in quality reinforcements. John Stones, has officially become the world’s most expensive defender after his £50m move from Everton, and £13.8m player Nolito – both went straight into City’s starting line-up on Saturday, but then Guardiola also made significant changes among the existing squad.
The biggest headline revolved around City’s veteran keeper Joe Hart, who sat out the game while he was replaced by Willy Caballero, while, alongside Stones, left-back Aleksandar Kolarov was preferred to Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala. Fernando, Kelechi Iheanacho and Jesus Navas were also replaced from the starting XI, with David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Nolito stepping in.
City dominated possession on Saturday, controlling the ball 76.9 per cent of the time, compared to the 50-50 split in Swansea. While City played fairly similar shots across the two matches, the total number and accuracy of passes has increased.
City controlled the game a lot better against Sunderland. They won back possession five metres further up the pitch on average, had six players spend the majority of the game in the visitors’ half and made 128 more passes in the Black Cats’ portion of the pitch.
Manchester City need to find a way to convert their domination over the game initially, into effective finishing. They had a strong dominion over both games, but drew one, and won one. Only time will tell whether the changes by Guardiola are really good enough throughout the course of the season, especially with their Champions League matches as well.