Once Jose Mourinho’s teams start rolling they’re like a juggernaut – They can be incredibly hard to stop. United are unbeaten in 11 league games now – when he was at Chelsea Jose went on an unbeaten league run of 40 games and it wasn’t a one-off. Chelsea had six unbeaten stretches that went over 12 games in the league under Mourinho’s watch. Manchester United haven’t been too successful in recent years but there is huge belief in the camp.
They are a serious force, and there’s no reason why this momentum would stop between now and May. Man United still have a massive role to play in the title race.
Ten points is a lot of ground to make up on Chelsea, but in the third week of December they were nine points off fourth place. Now they’re only three points away from Man City in fourth, and can close the gap to Liverpool to two if they win on Sunday. It isn’t impossible.
Jose Mourinho’s game has changed. He’s not as brash or cocky as he was earlier on in the season, and Manchester United look like a different beast now. It’s really come together for them. They have the most talented squad in the league. There’s no doubt about it.
United have match winners in the team and big players who can make the difference – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba. Even Juan Mata or Marcus Rashford coming off the bench can have a huge impact on the match. Liverpool can’t match that.
Mkhitaryan has been a key man in United’s changing fortunes. He’s played a far greater role in the league since the end of November, scoring against Sunderland and bagging the winner at home to Tottenham, and in that time United have won six and drawn two in the league. He’s been excellent playing just off Ibrahimovic and has helped shape United’s style of football.
People criticised Jose Mourinho for going to Anfield and ‘parking the bus’ in mid-October, but don’t forget they were struggling at the time. They’d lost the Manchester derby at home, been hammered 3-1 away to Watford, and drawn at home to Stoke so they were under significant pressure. Now they’re playing with a lot more confidence, they have a swagger about them and they’ll certainly play a more attacking and expansive style of football.
Sadio Mane will be a huge loss. He’s away with Senegal for the African Cup of Nations and he’s been Liverpool’s most dangerous player this year. He’s been involved in 27 per cent of Liverpool’s 48 league goals this campaign. Losing a player of that quality means the whole team loses a bit of confidence and a bit of belief.
The biggest problem in the last couple of seasons has been the lack of pace. But Mane has come into the squad and he’s stretching the opposition. His pace and ability to create space gives everyone else more time on the ball and Liverpool have flourished with him in the team.
When the Reds have needed something to happen in recent weeks, Mane has stepped up – but without him in the team you’re missing that game-changing piece of magic. Philippe Coutinho might be back but he’s unlikely to be at 100 per cent. Adam Lallana has been playing well, as has Robert Firmino but can they step up in the big game when the pressure is on?
Somebody will need to at Old Trafford if they want to end Jose’s unbeaten march.