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The upside of Manchester United going Full Mourinho

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Reports of Jose Mourinho's irrelevance may have been slightly exaggerated.

Liverpool v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Whatever that was at Anfield last night, we can be sure it wasn't football taught by Matt Busby. No Busby Babes were bouncing. Nor did it bear much resemblance to the early days of Alex Ferguson's time in charge; United's wingers weren't exactly barrelling forward at every opportunity.

You could perhaps draw more of a connection to Ferguson's later period, after he'd been traumatised by the Champions League and assisted by Carlos Quieroz. Though United's reputation for gung ho attack seemed to hang around, the reality of the trickier away ties was often more prosaic. Even occasionally — whisper it — dull.

But the general consensus seems to be that last night was extremely, perhaps even completely, Mourinho. You will of course have your own views as to whether extreme Mourinho football is football that you enjoy watching, is football that respects the traditions of Manchester United, is football that sets a good example for the children, and so on and so forth. And that's fine. Having opinions is a game of opinions. But we're going to suggest that, on a practical level and from a Manchester United point of view, that an evening of extreme Mourinho is a very good sign indeed, even if it resulted in two boring hours for a single point.

This isn't just because United did their job well, though that's certainly no bad thing. Even if you think it betrays a crippling lack of ambition unbecoming in a club so large, neutralising one of the best attacking sides in the league takes application, concentration, organisation, intelligence, focus and skill. All excellent things to have hanging around a squad, however you want them to play.

But this game against Liverpool, taken along with the previous league games against Leicester and Stoke, suggest that the broad outline of the Mourinho Doctrine is emerging. Again, while you might consider this approach tantamount to taking a hammer to the statue of the Trinity, it looks as though United are adopting a policy of trying to sit on the tricky away games, and trying to steamroller everybody else. They're not perfect at any of this, yet, but they're getting there.

Most importantly of all, these performances suggest that Mourinho has answers to two of the largest questions that he brought with him from Real Madrid and Chelsea. Tactically, some have wondered if his approach isn't in danger of being superseded by the new wave of ultra-modern quick-passing high-pressing football; last night suggests that he does at least have a functional counter. And plenty have wondered if Mourinho, having just presided over the total internal collapse of a title-holding team, had lost the ability to motivate players, to get them working, to bend players to his will. It seems the players are buying in.

Now, you might consider that those players and this club are being dragged into a moral quagmire, and that his method of countering the gegenpressers is frankly distressing. You might be justified and righteous in doing so. But Manchester United, after three peculiar years, hired Mourinho to get Mourinho. Early days, still, but it's starting to look like they've got him.