When Manchester United return from the international break they’ve got the small matter of a trip to Stamford Bridge to contend with.
After a string of disappointing performances, discounting the second half against Newcastle, a visit to Jose Mourinho’s former side arguably couldn’t be coming at a worse time.
Maurizio Sarri has already imposed his exciting, attacking style on his Chelsea side and they find themselves sitting just below Manchester City at the top of the table on goal difference after an unbeaten start to the season.
Things couldn’t be much different for United at the moment, however. They look like a team who are still struggling to get on board with Mourinho’s plans, despite it being his third season in charge at the club.
And although United will go in to this game as underdogs they’ve got the capacity to pull off a surprise result at Stamford Bridge, but Mourinho’s going to have to produce one of his vintage performances to do it.
Such a performance under Mourinho has proven few and far between since his arrival at Old Trafford in the summer of 2016 but there have been a handful.
Cast your mind back over the years of Mourinho’s management and there are countless examples of Mourinho managing to mastermind wins against the odds while manager at Barcelona, Porto and Chelsea.
United have been mocked for ‘parking the bus’ under Mourinho and while to some extent that’s true, Mourinho’s vintage performances and, as a result, some of his most impressive wins have been built on solid defensive displays which have kept some of the world’s best attackers at bay.
There was Chelsea’s 1-0 win against City back in 2014/15 thanks to a midfield three which suffocated City’s attack. Nemanja Matic started that game alongside David Luiz and Ramires in Chelsea’s midfield.
Then United’s performance against Chelsea in 2017 when United ran out 2-0 winners against the then runaway league leaders after Ander Herrera kept Eden Hazard at bay.
The home performance against Liverpool last season where United foiled the much-vaunted trio of Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino was another performance in the mould of Mourinho.
A similar tactical masterclass from the Portuguese will be required if United hold any realistic aspirations of securing any kind of positive result against Sarri’s side and it would be no surprise to see him call upon his go-to man in the big games once more in Marouane Fellaini.
He will be expected to thwart the likes of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic in possession with the help of Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic and United must also achieve something they have failed to this season: show some defensive solidity.
It might not be pretty but a trademark Mourinho display could be just what United require to finally kickstart their season at Stamford Bridge next weekend.