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The Key to Manchester United’s success in big games is the midfield battle

Manchester United have some huge fixtures coming up starting with a trip to the Emirates to take on Arsenal, on Saturday evening. Following that is the Manchester derby at Old Trafford, on the 10th December. United secured all three points in a tricky away fixture to Watford on Tuesday night, after winning 4-2, although United were 3-0 up by half-time. Despite the fact United scored four goals again, they still looked short in midfield and at times, completely overrun.

If United look overrun against the likes of Watford, no disrespect intended, then how can they expect to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City in our massive matches coming up? Although, as a United fan, I do think the team is capable of going out an attacking Arsenal and City but they have to do it in the right way. Jose Mourinho’s record against the top six, especially away from home is appalling as he just wants to get the point and take it back to Old Trafford.

Any other season, United’s start would have put them top of the league and I could then understand Mourinho’s desire to go to the Emirates or Anfield or the Etihad and get a point. However, with the position United are in, and the unbelievable form of City, United need to win against Arsenal on Saturday and City the following week. These ‘big’ matches decide titles, and if United are to be in contention, then two wins are desperately needed, in my opinion.

United’s best chance of winning these games is through the midfield battle. In my opinion, our best performances last season were when we had Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in midfield, and with the signing of Nemanja Matic, I thought Mourinho would deploy that midfield tactic more often but he hasn’t. Also, Matic picked up an injury on Tuesday night at Vicarage Road, so he could be a huge miss if he’s out for a few weeks.

With or without Matic, I think United have to have three in midfield in order to stand any chance of winning the midfield battle, and consequently, these massive fixtures coming up. If Mourinho goes with this tactic and lets Paul Pogba control the tempo, then we’ll have a chance of picking up some vital results. However, I think Mourinho will be even more conservative and pragmatic in his approach to this games, especially if Matic is out for long. I think he’ll try to give the defence as much protection as possible.

I do think it’ll be hard for Jose because whichever tactic he does decide to deploy, he will be criticised for. If he keeps it tight and structured, he’ll be accused of “parking the bus”. If he goes more attacking and United get beat, he’ll be criticised for being “too open”. Not that I think Jose is bothered what the media or fans say but I think it must play on his mind.

The next two matches against Arsenal and City could be season-defining. I don’t believe United will win both matches, simply because of Mourinho’s record in big games against the top 6. However, two wins from these matches are crucial. If United drop any points, especially against City, then I think we can kiss goodbye to the title and Jose’s record of always winning the league in his second season.

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