Manchester United won the Europa League by playing “beautiful football”, according to manager Jose Mourinho.
And by beautiful, he means recovering possession and not playing out from the back.
Speaking to Portuguese outlet Tribuna Expresso about his preparation for the game against Ajax, Mourinho said he watched the Dutch giants in eight matches from last season to determine the their strengths and weaknesses.
He then adapted his United side accordingly, and paid particular attention to the weaknesses of his defenders – especially their ability to play out from the back.
Mourinho said: “We prepare a game better when we’re aware of our own weaknesses. Everyone said Ajax played beautiful football and that the beauty of the game matters.
“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!'”
However, the tactics worked a treat.
With Eric Bailly suspended for the final, Smalling partnered Daley Blind in the centre of the defence, while Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini worked tirelessly in the midfield.
United not only won 2-0, but were by far the better side, reducing Ajax’s youthful side to minimal possession and only a handful of chances.
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