Here's how Max Allegri eclipsed Jose Mourinho in the game management battle

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 24 October 2018, 11:53

As Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho spoke to reporters before his side’s clash with Juventus on Tuesday evening, he looked more like the man who had steered Porto, Chelsea and Inter to numerous trophies than the ragged, ranting Coach we have seen more recently.

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With a fresh haircut and a rye smile, he joked about having walked to the stadium to avoid roadworks that kept the team bus stuck for over 45 minutes and the fact that opposition forward Cristiano Ronaldo would only need two touches to score a hat-trick.

Then the match started.

Right from the kick-off, United failed to attack the ball, looking stagnant in the face of Juve’s lively approach. As Max Allegri’s men danced between the lines, team-mates finding each other with magnetic ease, the home side merely stood and watched, unable to even get near to the ball.

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Sure enough, Allegri’s proactive approach paid dividends. Paulo Dybala opened the scoring on just 17 minutes, a slim lead that would prove to be enough to take the win with no credible response from United.

By half-time, Juve had enjoyed an astonishing 72% of the possession, Miralem Pjanic in the defensive midfield role keeping Juan Mata in his back pocket, the latter touching the ball just 16 times in the first 45 minutes.

 

Meanwhile, Pjanic put on a passing masterclass while also keeping things tight, his half-time figures showing 57 touches and a 97.9% pass completion rate. Yet it was not just one player that made Juve look so great, the tactical acumen and game plan from Allegri ensuring that every one of the starting XI worked in absolute harmony.

Mourinho simply had to change something after such a drubbing in the opening period, but the second half began in entirely the same manner. After the match, the boss quite rightly pointed to a lack of options on the bench and an injury to Alexis Sanchez as a reason he didn’t try and change things, but what about the aspects he could have influenced?

At just 1-0 down, he should have urged his team to press, he should have inspired a higher workrate, and he should have altered his shape so that his 4-2-3-1 wasn’t being swamped in midfield by Allegri’s 4-3-3.

As the latter man brought on Andrea Barzagli on 80 minutes in order to revert to a back three, Mourinho simply held up three fingers to the away supporters to signify the treble he won with Inter back in 2010, a feat never accomplished by the Bianconeri.

It is more than a little ironic that while Juve’s sublime performance at Old Trafford revealed that they may do just that this season, Mourinho was left pointing to his past achievements in defeat, and not for the first time in the recent past either.

“If you were having to describe this game short and sharp then it’s men against boys if I’m honest,” declared Rio Ferdinand to BT Sport after the match.

“Juventus were far superior all throughout, in every department of the game – from their shape, the way they applied themselves, the intensity, the quality on the ball.

“There was a huge difference between the two sides in terms of quality on the ball, the calmness in possession, the understanding of the game management. They were well deserved winners.”

The former United defender hits the nail on the head with these intelligent and succinct comments after the match, and some of the excellent points he makes were simply down to Juve’s quality on the night. But some of this list was within Mourinho’s power to change, the game management battle won hands down by Allegri.

Sadly for Manchester United fans, a new haircut and a return of the cheeky smile does not bring back the visionary and tactically astute Mourinho from days gone by.

Instead, on the touchline stood a man who looks to have been left a relic of a bygone age by his younger counterparts, a man hiding behind his past glories in order to distract from the failures of the present.

To underscore just how far ahead Allegri was on the night, his 87th minute introduction of a winger (Douglas Costa) for a full-back (Joao Cancelo) marked the third tactical shift by Juve, yet his opposite number hadn’t even reacted to the first one.

Yes, United may well have lost anyway, but if Mourinho’s men had attacked from the first minute, the home supporters could have at least seen that they had tried. The Coach does not seem to be able to garner the best from what he has available, instead bemoaning what he lacks.

Such an approach will never have a happy ending, and Jose may end up watching last night’s opponents lift the Champions League trophy next May, left with only the thoughts of when he last did the same.

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