Jose Mourinho has an obsession with height. In Matic, Fellaini and McTominay he boasts the three tallest midfielders in the Premier League at 6 foot 4. And it doesn’t end there. Paul Pogba is 6 foot three, Michael Carrick 6 foot 2, and Ander Herrera is no shrinking violet at 6 foot. So why is Mourinho so obsessed with height and is it one of his biggest – pardon the pun – weaknesses?
The short answer – done it again – is yes. Such a strange height obsession is a weakness when the tactics implemented are for a club with the traditions of Manchester United. Manchester United are a club intrinsically linked with fast attacking football and whilst it may be stereotypical, tall players tend to be slow and not as good on the ball as their smaller counterparts.
In fairness, Paul Pogba is an exception to that rule. At 6 foot 3 he’s fast, athletic and displays brilliant close ball control that allows him to dribble and move the ball very quickly. In Paul Pogba, Mourinho has the perfect example of height and the required ability to implement whatever system he’s trying to inflict on Manchester United at the moment. A system that is still up for debate and confusion.
However, in Fellaini, Matic and McTominay, the three tallest midfielders in the league, Mourinho doesn’t have players who are fast or good on the ball. Good players in their own right, they don’t obviously fit the mantra of fast flowing football United fans want to see. Time and time again this season they are bypassed by smaller quicker players who can move the ball, and themselves, quickly between the midfield lines. Time and time again the ball from midfield to attack has been so pedestrian that by the time flair players like Martial and Sanchez get the ball they’re facing an opposition that isn’t stretched and has themselves well organised.
So why does Mourinho stick with this approach? What is the advantage of playing giant midfielders who slow down the play?
Physicality for one. Mourinho likes his team to be physical and there can be no doubting that Fellaini and Matic especially are more than capable of facing up to a physical contest. But what else do they bring? Aerial dominance? You’d think being the tallest midfielders in the league this would be their biggest asset and the sole reason Mourinho loves height so much. Weirdly it’s a false dawn.
Aerial dominance is what Mourinho appears to be going for with his midfielders but the areas this is utilised isn’t where Manchester United fans would even consider warming to this long ball approach – the oppositions penalty box. Manchester United rarely score from corners for one. So this height advantage Fellaini and Matic bring is redundant. Not to mention Pogba, Lukaku at 6 foot 3 and Chris Smalling at 6 foot 4. It’s bordering on inept that Manchester United have such a massive – done it again – height advantage yet they’re so poor at scoring headers.
So if Mourinho is picking all this height and it’s not for scoring goals what’s it for? You got it! Defence.
Mourinho loves the defensive side of football. And with tall midfielders stood in front of his tall centre backs he knows that any team that wants to throw longs balls in to his box is going to struggle to make an impact. Which in theory totally nullifies a way the opposition can attack his team. Of course it totally blunts Manchester United’s midfield as a fast dynamic midfield but when your focus is on not conceding goals fast attacking footballing isn’t the priority.
So there you have it! Mourinho’s height obsession explained. Is it one you agree with? Is it actually that effective? Join the discussion on our YouTube channel where we discuss more about United’s current style of play and whether Mourinho will ever change