Jesse Lingard has opened up about Jose Mourinho’s tactical changes that set the platform for Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Chelsea on Sunday.
The 24-year-old was placed in an unusual role of serving as an energetic strike partner with Marcus Rashford against the league leaders and inflicted plenty of damage on their back four through a series of powerful runs in behind.
Mourinho, speaking after the game, acknowledged that he knew the system employed – the same approach used last month for Man United’s 1-0 loss at Stamford Bridge – would cause Chelsea damage with 11 men on the pitch.
And Lingard noted to MUTV following the game that such a tactical change required plenty of resolve to carry out but paid off in the end.
“It was tough, especially for the forward players doing all the running,” he said.
“But you know you have to put in a shift to get a good performance. We knew we had to close them down.
“We couldn’t let the defenders bring the ball out and play and we knew if we did that then the players behind us, the midfield and defence, would do their job of marking the players behind us.”
It may have been Rashford who made it to the front pages following victory of Chelsea, but his strike partner deserves similar accolades. Lingard’s buzzing, constantly roaming presence enabled his teammate to drive into space and pull their back four apart.
This dismantling job could not have been done alone. Gary Neville, speaking during the game on Sky Sports, noted that the pair were reminiscent of Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole. And the statement, whilst slightly hyperbolic, did hold some weight: Rashford and Lingard were ebullient together, producing smart flicks, turns and runs in conjunction with each other.
Mourinho will know that using such an approach again – perhaps against Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel next month – could bear plenty of fruit.