How Jose Mourinho Needs to Set Up Tactically to Beat Manchester United

Tre' Atkinson@@TreAtkinsonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2013

How Jose Mourinho Needs to Set Up Tactically to Beat Manchester United

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    After a dismal start to the La Liga campaign, Real Madrid have their sights set on finally claiming the 10th Champions League trophy in the club’s rich history.

    However, the Spanish side will have a very difficult task ahead of them. Los Blancos are set to face off with English powerhouse Manchester United in what is a dream encounter for world football fans.

    With the history and grandeur of both clubs, the two-legged affair looks mouthwatering. Either side can progress, but Jose Mourinho will surely set all of his attention on the upcoming encounter.

    For Real Madrid, and Jose Mourinho, the Champions League is the most important competition this season. So in this article we will look at how Jose Mourinho needs to set up tactically to beat Manchester United.

    Continue reading to find out how Real Madrid can have the best chance at progressing at the expense of the Red Devils. 

Play Varane Beside Sergio Ramos, and Other Defensive Tactics

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    Real Madrid will certainly have a very tough task on their hands when it comes to stopping the Manchester United attack. But there are specific steps that Mourinho should make to ensure the defense is prepared.

    Everyone expects that Sergio Ramos will be in the lineup, but there are questions over who will line up beside the Spaniard. With Pepe just now returning to training, it looks unlikely that he will be ready for the first leg.

    With Pepe likely to miss the encounter, Mourinho’s best option is young Frenchman Raphael Varane.

    Varane has proved that he will one day become one of the world’s best defenders. The youngster performed incredibly against Barcelona recently, and his ability will be well-suited to stopping the likes of Robin van Persie.

    Sergio Ramos and Varane in the center of the defense will provide aerial coverage as well as strength and speed. Mourinho must make this move to secure advancement.

    However, if Pepe is deemed ready to return against United, the lineup would be different.

    It would be a very wise idea to continue Varane in the lineup beside Pepe while moving Sergio Ramos back to his old position at right-back. Regardless of what happens, Varane and Ramos are a necessity.

    Also, the Portuguese tactician will likely start Diego Lopez in goal. This move will be very wise as he has already showed that he is the best choice to fill in for the injured Iker Casillas, who will miss the match (via ESPN).

Start Luka Modric over Angel Di Maria

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    There is no secret that this season has been a poor one for Angel Di Maria. The once fruitful winger has gone missing for large portions of the season, and it would not be wise to start him against Manchester United.

    Jose Mourinho should opt to playing Luka Modric in place of the Argentine winger. Modric is a terrific facilitator and is quickly starting to fit into the Real Madrid attack.

    With Patrice Evra likely to make things difficult for an attacker on the right, a more creative player is the best option.

    Luka Modric has also begun to play fantastically alongside Mesut Ozil. Though playing two creators together usually makes attacking more difficult, Real Madrid actually look better when the pair are on the pitch together.

    Mourinho will likely have something very well-planned up his sleeve. But fans should not expect Di Maria to be in the starting lineup. With the Champions League being so important, Mourinho will only play the absolute best performers. 

Focus on Winning the Battle for the Midfield

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    Manchester United’s biggest strength may be their midfield. For this very reason, Jose Mourinho will need to place his most focus on controlling the middle of the pitch.

    Both Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira will be key if Los Blancos are to silence the Red Devil’s midfielders. Khedira has the strong presence needed in front of defense, but the most important player will be Xabi Alonso.

    The Spanish pivot player will need to dictate the play in the center of the pitch by keeping possession and distributing the ball when needed. Alonso will be the player who makes or breaks Real Madrid’s chances against Manchester United.

    But the strength of United in midfield is the very reason why having both Ozil and Modric on the pitch will be important.

    The two playmakers will make things difficult for the opponents and give Madrid a much better chance. Both can keep possession and take command outside the box.

    If Real Madrid can dominate the battle in the midfield, United’s chances of winning are very slim. Expect Jose Mourinho to have a plan that will really frustrate his opponent.

Take Advantage of Manchester United's Struggling Defense

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    Real Madrid have every offensive tool needed to really trouble Manchester United’s defense. In fact, the Red Devils back line has been shaky this season, and Los Blancos must capitalize on that issue.

    Though Manchester United have a plethora of defensive options, none of their players stand a good chance of stopping Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese star should be able to flex his muscles against a weak defense.

    But it is easier said than done for Real Madrid. They have struggled mightily at times this season, and despite facing a weak defense, it would not surprise some if they find scoring difficult.

    This is why it will be up to Ronaldo to show why he considers himself the greatest in the world.

    Ronaldo is notorious for showing up in big games. With the match being in the Champions League against his former club, fans should be in for a show put on by the Portugal captain.

    Los Blancos will also need to help their leading scorer. Karim Benzema will play a vital role, but Mourinho’s best chances lie in creating very solid counter-attacks in the middle of the pitch.

    If Real Madrid can actually play at their true level against the Manchester United defense, there is no reason to believe that Los Blancos will not advance.

    The most tactically sound lineup that Mourinho could field would look something to this affect:

                                                                   Diego Lopez

                                                   Arbeloa, Varane, Ramos, Coentrao

                                                                 Khedira, Alonso

                                                            Modric,  Ozil,  Ronaldo


    What should be Mourinho’s focus against Manchester United? Will Los Blancos advance? Don’t forget to leave your thoughts and questions below.

    Tre’ Atkinson. Follow me on Twitter for more discussion on  Real Madrid, La Liga and the Champions League.