Jose Mourinho blunders line-up; Claudio Bravo’s display will worry Pep Guardiola: Premier League talking points

Jose Mourinho got his major tactical decision wrong on Saturday in selecting his line-up for the Manchester derby, by picking Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in his wide positions and giving them their first league starts of the season.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Phil Noble / Reuters
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Phil Noble / Reuters

Thomas Woods looks back at some of the big issues from Saturday’s Premier League action

Expect changes at United after Mourinho’s errors

Jose Mourinho got his major tactical decision wrong on Saturday in selecting his line-up for the Manchester derby, by picking Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in his wide positions and giving them their first league starts of the season.

They were the only two positions in the team really up for debate following the first three games of the season.

Mourinho dropped Anthony Martial, which was not a surprise as the French striker looked low in confidence and like he needed a rest.

But Juan Mata has probably been United’s best player this season and the side lost a lot in the attacking third with the Spaniard left on the bench.

• Premier League round-up: Firmino and Liverpool impress against Leicester City

Mkhitaryan is going to be a sensational player for United, in this reporter’s opinion, but he was not ready for this game.

The way Mourinho is handling him is classic Mourinho. He has spent £26 million (Dh126.7m) on the Armenian midfielder then started him on the bench in every game before the derby.

Mourinho is drip feeding Mkhitaryan with action, getting him used to the Premier League. A fine plan unless you then decide to start him in one of the season’s most important and frantic games.

After 15, 14 and 30-minute substitute spells so far, Mkhitaryan did not look ready. He was ponderous on the ball and could barely place a pass in the right place in the first half.

What United want is the goals and assists that the midfielder provided at Borussia Dortmund last season, but this derby nightmare will surely only be a setback in Mkhitaryan’s progress.

It is hard to see how he starts next week at Watford.

Lingard, meanwhile, simply had a poor game — one of his worst performances in a United shirt and half of the problem looked to be mental.

Hard for Mourinho to predict but you could argue that bringing a player back from injury for his first start in a derby was a risk.

Mourinho singled out several players — Eric Bailly, Daley Blind, Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba among others — after the match for criticism and you have to expect changes for United in their next games.

They play Feyenoord away in the Europa League on Thursday then go to Watford next Sunday in the Premier League.

Mata, Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera certainly stated their case for a start while Chris Smalling should come back into the defence.

If Mourinho and United can take some solace in being outplayed by City, it is the hope this squad moves up a level in the intensity of their performances.

The players now know that one bad performance means they will lose their starting spot.

Smalling, for example, could not get in the team because of the performances of Bailly and Blind while he was out suspended. He will surely seize his chance to get a starting spot back.

Bravo under major pressure

Apart from Alexsandar Kolarov losing a tooth, Manchester City really only had one thing go wrong during the derby — the performance of Claudio Bravo in goal.

Joe Hart must surely had afforded himself a smile ahead of his debut for Torino at Atlanta today after being ditched for the 33-year-old Chilean.

Bravo, brought in for his ability with his feet, looked shaky in every department.

The fact that his mistake collecting a cross contributed directly to United’s goal will not be easy for Guardiola to take.

The Spaniard has put his neck on the line in making a switch at goalkeeper. It is the one position where a manager had to make the clearest squad.

With every other player in his team, Guardiola can make match-by-match decisions, rotate, make substitutions.

But you pick a goalkeeper and you stick with him.

The English media will now spend a lot of time focusing on Bravo’s handling of set pieces and you can guarantee that opposition teams will have made note.

When David de Gea signed for rivals United, his handling of crosses into the box became a major issue for much of his debut season and City will want to avoid this becoming a similar talking point.

Any goalkeeper should be a good shot stopper, critics will say, but dominating the penalty area makes the top-class No 1s stand out

Guardiola will hope Bravo can put this mistake behind him — we will see if it becomes a bigger issue in City’s next few games.

Celtic away in the Uefa Champions League at the end of the month, for example, will be one game where Bravo will come under a lot of set-piece pressure.

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Published: September 11, 2016 04:00 AM

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