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In a one-sided afternoon of football, Manchester United mangled Fulham 4-1.

The match was an emphatic slapping from start to finish, with United always comfortably superior to bottom placed Fulham even before the Cottagers were reduced to 10 men in the second half. There were two men chiefly responsible for United’s brilliance: Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard.

Sure, Diogo Dalot and Ashley Young excelled at full-back for The Red Devils (Young opened the scoring with an absolute worldie) and having consistent displays in those key wide areas not only made United more defensively solid but also enabled them to play more flowing football in attack.

But Dalot is a rookie and Young is a veteran, so neither man can really be relied upon for consistency. United need to sign full-backs in January or the summer to be able to maximise the effect of good full-backs. So yes, they played well, but this is not something that is likely to happen again; after all how many other clubs have a full-back as poor as Dennis Odoi to let Young shine?

Mata and Lingard, however? Their brilliance is easily duplicated because both players are of the age where they can be consistent. And theirs is brilliance that United need to focus on, because they are highly unlikely to win anything this season so the only way to win the hearts and minds of the fans is with good football.

The problem with Mourinho’s United is that he doesn’t really coach a true offensive structure, and often it seem as though his players have been given a lot of license to basically “wing it” – this is partly why Paul Pogba can so often struggle under Mourinho; the Frenchman needs a well understood tactical blueprint to give him structure, otherwise his ability to do it all can often lead to him doing nothing.

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Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard have no such problem; largely because they are naturally associative players. They don’t need the ball for largely stretches of time. Mata has only really been a primary playmaker for a couple of years with Chelsea and one with Valencia, otherwise he’s mostly played “off” someone else, which forced him to understand and develop truly excellent off-the-ball movement.

Sure, Mata can obviously operate as the hub of everything, but he can just as easily move the ball on with great speed. Lingard, meanwhile, has never been a primary playmaker. So had to develop his work-rate and off-the-ball movement to stand out and impress. So if Mourinho gives them a detailed gameplan (lol) then they can follow it.

But if left to their own devices their instincts and improvisation will facilitate team-play anyway. Moreover they’ve learned how to make everyone around them look better. So when paired together in the same XI for United, they can operate as the fulcrum of attacks but also never indulge themselves in their roles; they keep on moving and looking for ways to move their side forward.

United’s second goal saw Marcus Rashford streaking down the left; the Englishman looked up and fed a ball to the edge of the box where Juan Mata was lurking. Lingard had already made a run deep into the box, dragging defenders away to create space for Mata to slot home.

Then for United’s third goal, a short corner routine saw Mata come in off the touchline and feed it to Jesse Lingard in the half-space. Mata immediately ran in behind the defence and Lingard took a touch before feeding the ball in behind. The Spaniard ran onto it, fed it across goal and Romelu Lukaku slapped it home for 3-0.

Those two goals summed up just why combining Lingard and Mata makes so much sense for United. Their interplay is not only great in its own right, but it opens up spaces and chances for everyone else. Diogo Dalot in particular was often in oceans of space because Fulham’s defence kept on collapsing into the middle to crowd out Mata and Lingard. And yes it was only Fulham, but United have played bad sides before this season and never played like this.

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Paul Pogba is never going to get a fair shake under José Mourinho, this much is clear but with Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard playing like this; United will actually be able to start playing good, attractive football even without their fabulous French talisman. Then all they need is Mourinho to drop carthorse Nemanja Matic for the fantastic Fred, rotate Romelu Lukaku then sign a couple of full-backs in the January window and finally, José Murinho’s Manchester United might actually be fun to watch!

The post How Mata & Lingard showed v Fulham that Mourinho’s Man Utd CAN play nice football appeared first on Squawka News.

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