Smart decisions by Jose Mourinho the key to Manchester United’s upturn — Premier League talking points

Thomas Woods provides his talking points from Saturday's Premier League action, focusing on Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.

Jose Mourinho, left, should take credit for finding a role for Wayne Rooney. Phil Noble / Reuters
Powered by automated translation

Manchester United are now unbeaten in 10 games in all competitions following the 2-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

Just as manager Jose Mourinho bore the brunt of the criticism when United were struggling earlier in the season, he deserves a lot of credit for finding solutions in his team selection.

The home derby defeat to Manchester City and the 4-0 thrashing at Chelsea were prime examples of when Mourinho got his team selection wrong, specifically in the wide positions.

Against Chelsea, he had Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard wide in a 4-5-1 formation. Their focus was so much on defensive duties that Zlatan Ibrahimovic was left isolated and United had nothing to offer in attack.

United are still playing 4-5-1, but Ibrahimovic now has plenty of support, with regular runners off the ball. The Swede is thriving, with 10 goals in his last nine games, and United look more like a top-four side with every game.

Read more:

■ Chelsea: What a difference a year makes

■ Arsenal: Alexis Sanchez urged to join Pellegrini in China

■ Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 'He is not just a normal player'

There are several examples of Mourinho’s bold decisions paying off in recent games, most notably in defence.

Based on early season selections, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Matteo Darmian all assumed peripheral roles, but are repaying their manager with fine performances.

Rojo, in particular, has been impressive, even if he needs to cut out the two-footed tackling that has earned him headlines for the wrong reasons.

Then there is Mourinho’s decision to reshape his midfield around Michael Carrick. United are unbeaten when the Carrick, 35, plays. He adds control to United’s game and could be England’s Andrea Pirlo, playing on towards his 40s.

The selection of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, after months on the sidelines, was another correct call. The Armenian’s electrifying performances helped galvanise both the team and the fans before injury struck during his man-of-the-match display against Tottenham Hotspur.

Mourinho has also helped in finding a role for Wayne Rooney. The England captain was woeful at the start of the campaign, but Mourinho has chosen the right games to help him rediscover some form.

On Saturday, there was another correct decision. The selection of Lingard, who had not started a league game since November 27, decided the game in United’s favour.

Mourinho recognised a lack of pace in West Brom’s back four and the England winger exploited that. He created Ibrahimovic’s opener and regularly made runs past the striker and in behind the home defence.

Questions about whether Mourinho had “lost it” were prevalent earlier this season and some of his decisions were confusing to the outside eye.

United’s improvement again shows why managers need time. Slowly, but surely, Mourinho is working out his best team and stamping his mark on United.

Bradley has a big hole to fix

On the subject of managers who need time — how long will Bob Bradley get at Swansea City?

Bradley is getting some unfair criticism based on the fact he is using some US “soccer” jargon in his press-conferences, but that really isn’t important. Results are and Swansea are not getting them because they are defending so poorly.

Swansea have conceded three times in seven of Bradley’s 10 games in charge, with just two clean sheets.

Titles are won by defences and, likewise, you are going to get relegated if you concede 100 goals in a season.

Bradley needs the transfer window to come quickly.

Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE

Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport