Thursday 19 April 2018

Paul Scholes blasts Jose Mourinho's insistence on playing two Man United defenders out of position

Paul Scholes and Jose Mourinho
Paul Scholes and Jose Mourinho

Tom Rooney

Never one to mince his words, Manchester United legend Paul Scholes has said that Jose Mourinho’s insistence on playing two defenders out of their natural positions may have been a decisive factor in the derby game on Saturday, and that the experiment needs to stop now.

A positive and, indeed, legitimate spin that can be put on United’s 2-1 loss to City in the Manchester crosstown clash over the weekend, is that it will prove an incredibly instructive experience for players and manager alike.

Mourinho will have taken much food for thought regarding the personnel at his disposal and whether or not persisting with the 4-2-3-1 formation is sustainable, since it certainly doesn’t appear to bring the best out of Paul Pogba, who was anonymous at Old Trafford, and seems to deprive United of genuine pace in the final third.

At the other end of the pitch things had been going quite swimmingly heretofore, but Kevin De Bruyne, Kelechi Iheanacho and David Silva frequently exposed the United rear guard, most notably in the first period when the former duo registered City’s goals.

Given United had conceded a solitary goal - against Bournemouth on the opening day – prior to meeting Guardiola and co, there has been scant reason to complain about Mourinho’s choice of defender.

Eric Bailly, Antonio Valencia, Luke Shaw and Daley Blind have scarcely put a foot wrong, but the latter was eminently accommodating for both the goals of De Bruyne and Iheanacho.

Blind was quickly touted as being one of the first casualties of the Mourinho era, but he and Bailly have largely combined admirably, so much so the Dutchman has been keeping the fit-again Chris Smalling out of the starting XI.

The former Chelsea boss has recently stated that he favours specialists in each position and is not particularly enamoured by versatility, arguably Blind’s greatest asset. Furthermore, Blind, for all his technical acumen, is nether strong or quick.

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Paul Scholes has said the that former Ajax player was bound to be exposed at some stage, and now that he has, the midfield great has called for Smalling to be reinstated immediately.  He does, however, see the merit in deploying Blind elsewhere, just in a more advanced position.

“Blind is a better defensive midfielder for United than he is a centre-back but he’s been an excellent partner for Eric Bailly so far this season, hence why Chris Smalling is not in the team at the moment yet he’s not won everybody over yet,” Scholes contended (First published in the Manchester Evening News).

“Why? Because he’s physically limited in the Premier League and people are expecting him to be found at some point, I suppose I still am, and against City he was found wanting against a dynamic Kevin de Bruyne. I would rather see Smalling partner Bailly in the long-term.”

Antonio Valencia fractured his arm

Furthermore, the use of Antonio Valencia at right back is not a tactic Scholes is particularly pleased with.

The Ecuadorian has certainly impressed going forward this term, which is of no surprise considering he is primarily a winger, but the Class of ’92 veteran believes there are more qualified candidates to fill the role. 

“As for Valencia, he’s not a right-back. He never will be, regardless of how good his form is at any one time,” added Scholes.

“But Matteo Darmian hasn’t got a sniff yet and there are different questions to ask about whether Timothy Fosu-Mensah is ready to start right there, so it’s a more difficult situation.”

Mourinho has promised to make significant changes for Thursday’s Europa League tie with Feyenoord, including starting Marcus Rashford, but it will be curious to see where else he shuffles his deck.

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