Rio Ferdinand has hit out at Jose Mourinho’s decision to employ a two-man pivot following Manchester United’s 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley.
The visitors, having won their last five games, were behind in 11 seconds against Mauricio Pochettino’s men after they failed to deal with a long ball that eventually fell for Christian Eriksen to score.
Phil Jones then diverted a cross into his own net midway through the second half to put the game practically out of reach, and Man United can be thankful that Spurs wasted chances to add to the scoreline.
Speaking on BT Sport after the game, Ferdinand noted that Mourinho simply got his approach wrong.
Rio Ferdinand: "I know most see the Matic & Pogba axis as a source of real strength, but in a 4-2-3-1, against strong opposition, it rarely looks good enough." #MUFC
— Devils Latest (@Devils_Latest) January 31, 2018
“If you play two in midfield for United, they have problems,” he said. “Their best performances have been when Pogba’s been let free in a three man midfield coming from the left hand side. This isn’t his game. His natural thinking is to go forward, to get on the ball.”
Mourinho begun 2018 by encouraging greater fluidity in midfield and it paid dividends, allowing Paul Pogba to roam forward and effect the game whilst giving players out wide – Anthony Martial especially – the chance to get into better positions.
And why he reneged on that approach at Wembley, against a side known for its intense midfield pressing, is a complete mystery. Pitting two midfielders against Spurs’ midfield trident was never going to end well, and supporters can only hope that Mourinho takes on board a lesson or two after what was arguably the worst performance of the season yet.