Manchester United manager, Jose Mourinho, has revealed that part of his tactical plan for the Europa League final against Ajax, was instructing his players not to pass to Chris Smalling.Mourinho also admitted that he set up his team to “create instability” for the Dutch team.
“I watched eight Ajax matches,” Mourinho said, according to Portuguese paper Tribuna Expresso .
“In England, I tend to watch two to three matches because I already know the opponent, but not in Europe. To me, analysing the opponent is key because the way I practice and play is influenced by it.
“We wanted to create instability. We would let them play out from the back while blocking (Matthijs) De Ligt, their right centre-back, making them play through Davinson Sanchez who had more trouble.
“We prepare a game better when we’re aware of our own weaknesses,” he continued. “Everyone said Ajax played beautiful football and that the beauty of the game matters and blah, blah, blah. I told my players that, for me, beautiful is not giving our opponents what they want.
“I even joked with Smalling – “With your feet, we’re for sure not playing out from the back!”
“That’s where we won the game. During the initial stage of the build-up we never played from our centre-backs to our midfielders, because they are great at recovering possession pressing high. In our midfield they didn’t recover the ball once.
“If the ball isn’t there, what are they going to press?”
United went on to beat Ajax 2-0 in Stockholm, qualifying for next season’s Champions League in the process.