The Manchester derby: Five Jose Mourinho mistakes


Manchester City were by far the superior team during the Manchester derby, and Jose Mourinho bears substantial responsibility for that fact.

Picking Rooney as captain, again

Rooney has been bad at football for the past four years. This game, though, it seemed as if he lost the ability to jump. Given he has previously lost the ability to run, control the ball, pass, shoot and do anything else than jump up into the air, this is a blow for the captain.

It can’t be ignored that Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were all poor today, but that’s not the point. The reason to pick out Rooney is that there is an indisputable body of evidence that he is no longer any good at his job: being a footballer.

Wayne Rooney and Pep Guardiola fights for the ball

Wayne Rooney and Pep Guardiola fights for the ballImago

This is not a question of form, this a question of permanence. Rooney is a train driver who can’t drive a train; a software engineer who doesn’t know how to code; a chef who can’t fry an egg.

To pick him again and again, despite all the evidence afforded to Jose Mourinho in the last three seasons, and now this one, is a mistake that only he can be blamed for.

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Marouane Fellaini

Fellaini has his uses. Towards the end of the game he was a useful beanpole to sling the ball at. Before then, he was an awkward midfielder, able to niggle and break up play occasionally. It was, for him, a relatively impressive game. That’s the problem: it was only impressive by his own standards.

David Silva (Manchester City) résiste au pressing de Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United)

David Silva (Manchester City) résiste au pressing de Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United)AFP

Looking at the opposition, Fernandinho fulfils essentially the same role, screening the midfield and releasing the ball constructively – at least, that’s the intention. Fellaini is too limited to do this to the required standard. His awkward qualities for others – his elbows, gangly legs and clumsiness – are also awkward for him to overcome too.

Both Morgan Schneiderlin and Ander Herrera are admittedly lightweight, and with Pogba struggling for fitness the allure of Fellaini’s presence is almost understandable. But to think that either of them wouldn’t be more use against a team as slight as City is probably an error.

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Trying to second guess Pep by selecting Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Ahead of the match, Mourinho said the rationale behind starting Lingard and Mkhitaryan was an attempt to force City’s full-backs, who have spent the lion’s share of the season as some sort of auxiliary central midfielders when City have the ball, back out wide.

Basically, Mourinho tried to second guess Guardiola and it backfired. Lingard and Mkhitaryan both came up short – a fact recognised by Mourinho, who sent on Marcus Rashford and Herrera in their place at half time.

Pep, for his part, bypassed the full-backs and midfield for much of the first half and utilised the long ball – a tactic that produced the opening goal.

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Not starting Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford’s introduction at half time heralded a spike in performance from United. He is on an incredible run of form and is brimming with confidence. Mourinho dropped Anthony Martial and Juan Mata for his first Manchester derby, but inexplicably elected to draft in Lingard ahead of Rashford.

Mark Clattenburg disallowed Marcus Rashford's goal

Mark Clattenburg disallowed Marcus Rashford’s goalReuters

It seems obvious to say but just play the players who are in form.

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Picking Daley Blind ahead of Chris Smallling

To be fair Daley Blind had, up until the Manchester derby, been in pretty decent form. However, he is not a centre-back. Mourinho made a big point of saying players would play in their ‘natural’ positions when he first spoke at his first United press conference but has continued to deploy Blind alongside Eric Bailly. Unfortunately for Mourinho and United, his deficiencies as a centre-back were exposed.

Smalling would undoubtedly have been better suited to the rigours of what turned into a physically demanding Manchester derby.

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Marcus Foley, Alex Netherton.