Suggesting Jose Mourinho is a defensive coach is just plain wrong!

Despite steering his side to three consecutive victories and three consecutive clean sheets, Jose Mourinho has hit back at criticism that suggests he is a defensive coach.

Manchester United are top of the Premier League after wins over West Ham United, Swansea City and Leicester City, proudly leading the race for the title after the first three matches. Mourinho’s men have scored 10 goals in those three games, winning 4-0, 4-0 and then 2-0. They’ve created an abundance of chances, played free-flowing football, fielded six different scorers in three matches and impressed fans and neutrals alike with their fast start to the new season.

Yet it is the other end of the pitch that has come under scrutiny. Manchester United have not conceded a goal in the Premier League thus far. They have been defensively solid and demonstrated that, as a team, they are well drilled in the art of defending. The partnership between Phil Jones and Eric Bailly at the heart of the defence has been particularly impressive.

They haven’t, no matter how you want to dress it up, been defensive. This has been the most offensive evolution of Manchester United since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. It is ridiculous to suggest otherwise, a sentiment expressed by Mourinho in response to his critics.

“Maybe they are going to say that [I am defensive] because my team is not conceding goals. Maybe they say I am defensive. We are playing well. Maybe in some matches we are going to be defensive and if the opponent is playing better than us we have to be pragmatic and defend but today we didn’t need that. I am not carried away, three matches, nine points is good, 10 goal difference is good.”

You can say, whether he’s defensive or not, that Jose Mourinho is an excellent coach. While many other sides have spent a lot of money in an attempt to overhaul ineffective defensive systems, it is the one area of the field that Mourinho’s use of time, not money, has been most effective. The back four chosen to face Leicester included just one Mourinho recruit; Eric Bailly. The work on the training ground, moulding and refining this group into a cohesive unit has not gone unnoticed.

“We are playing well. We didn’t have many matches last season where we played 90 minutes with the control we had today. Is [Jamie] Vardy a very dangerous player? I would say one of the most dangerous in the Premier League. Was he dangerous today? I would say no because we played very well to control that. Were Leicester very dangerous against Arsenal [in a 4-3 defeat]? Yes, I watched the match three times. Were they dangerous against us? No.”

The comparison Mourinho makes is an important one. Arsenal have conceded eight goals in their opening three matches. Tottenham have only collected five points, dropping just as many at home after conceding three in two fixtures. Manchester City may have only conceded twice, but they demonstrated last year just how temperamental that defensive unit can be. Even Chelsea, champions of the division and excellent defensively, conceded three on the opening day to Burnley. The defensive moniker that is attached to Mourinho is an unfair one. He simply understands the Premier League. Every team is capable and every team is dangerous. If you don’t respect the opponent, you cannot be successful.

It seems silly to labour the point, so I’ll simply sign off with a few meaningful statistics. This season Manchester United won their opening two matches 4-0. It was the first time United have scored four or more goals in their opening two league fixtures since 1907-08, an incredible 110 years ago. If you were to look at Jose Mourinho’s record as a manager, his first stint at Chelsea and his time at Real Madrid indicate his penchant for attacking football. That Chelsea side, the one that included Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Arjen Robben, Damian Duff and Eidur Gudjohnsen, still holds the Premier League record of 95 points.

At Real Madrid, he achieved a number of La Liga records that are yet to be beaten. They include accruing 100 points in a single season, scoring a record 121 goals, amassing a record goal difference of +89 and winning the most matches away from home (16) and most matches overall (32). You cannot achieve these things as a defensive coach. An excellent coach, aware of the importance of defensive stability, yes, but a defensive coach? Absolutely not.

Jose Mourinho is divisive. Some people love him, a lot more hate him. There will always be a stick to beat him with. However, his side are top of the Premier League after an almost flawless start. His critics seem to be on a hiding to nothing right now.


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