After stating that he wanted to act as if the last three years had never happened when he was initially announced as the new Manchester United manager, Jose Mourinho’s opening season at Old Trafford has been an overwhelming disappointment.
Having signed the Bundesliga player of the year (Henrikh Mkhitaryan), the most expensive footballer on the planet (Paul Pogba), the outstanding Eric Bailly and the celestial Zlatan Ibrahimovic, book makers had Manchester United just behind Manchester City as favourites to win the Premier League at the start of the season.
After another dull draw against Southampton on Wednesday night, it was confirmed that Manchester United would win fewer league fixtures this year than they have in any other Premier League season and were guaranteed to finish sixth in the table.
Perhaps most worryingly for Manchester United fans has been their performances in clashes with other sides in the top six with Mourinho consistently setting up defensively and looking to counter.
The Special One’s tendency to to focus on neutralising their opponent rather than playing to their own strengths has undoubtedly instilled an inferiority complex in his Manchester United side and, should he approach the Europa League final against a young and ambitious Ajax side with a similar mindset, he could be severely punished.
United need to put down a marker early on in the Europa League final and let an inexperienced Ajax know that they are going to dominate the tempo of the game and look to constantly be on the front foot. If Mourinho sets up his side to sit back and counter on Wednesday, he will be handing a tenacious Ajax side the initiative and the opportunity to take the game by the scruff of the neck.
With this in mind, Mourinho needs to pick a confident attacking line up that will remind United’s opponents of exactly what they are up against and set the tone for how they plan to approach the game.
Mourinho put out Manchester United’s youngest ever Premier League side against Crystal Palace on Sunday with the majority of the first team rested for the big one on Wednesday.
Given the fact that Martial and Lingard were both given 45 minutes in that outing, it looks as if it will be a toss up between those two for who will get a starting birth in Stockholm.
However, with Mata, Mkhitaryan, Herrera and Rashford all absent and Pogba only being given a run out to keep him sharp after a brief stint away from the squad, it seems very likely that the Special One’s starting XI won’t be too dissimilar to the above.