Jose Mourinho picking Marouane Fellaini was a masterstroke for Manchester United both defensively and in attack

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JOSE MOURINHO turned to Marouane Fellaini at Burnley and it not only helped solve any defensive woes but also freed up Man United going forward.

The United boss tried a back three against Spurs and it didn’t work in the second half as they were undone last Monday night.

Manchester United beat Burnley 2-0 at Turf Moor thanks to two Romelu Lukaku goals
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Marouane Fellaini came into the side and proved a masterstroke from Jose Mourinho

I’ve said in previous columns that with the pace of the Premier League, teams need to keep four men behind the ball to protect themselves.

And in picking Fellaini alongside Nemanja Matic in midfield, effectively as two holding midfield players, Mourinho enabled his team to totally control the game throughout.

Fellaini was excellent as the screen in front of centre-backs Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling and he and Matic protected them well.

Their average positions (graphic 1) show that the pair were disciplined and controlled throughout.

Fellaini’s presence gave protection to the defence but also enabled the attack to flourish
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Centre-backs Chris Smalling, pictured, and Victor Lindelof were boosted by Fellaini’s inclusion

In their previous away game, the poor performance in losing to Brighton, striker Romelu Lukaku was isolated up front and too many of the United players were burdened by defensive responsibilities to get forward and support him.

By playing Fellaini AND Matic in holding roles, full-backs Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw could bomb forward (graphic 2).

Also, Alexis Sanchez, Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba were given all the freedom they needed to roam.

Their movement was excellent and Lukaku often dragged the Burnley centre-backs around to create more space for his attacking team-mates.

The graphics show the average positions of the United players and the importance of Fellaini
Nemanja Matic and Fellaini worked well as a pair in holding midfield

Burnley tried to push on to press Fellaini and Matic and stop them dictating play, but this just created space between their midfield and defence to allow United even more room.

The key to United’s change of fortunes was creating a ‘box’ in defensive positions — the two centre-backs and the two holding midfield players, snuffing out any Burnley attacks (graphic 3).

Fellaini and Matic are a big physical presence and they dominated midfield, doing the dirty work to enable the flair players to win the game.

United, unlike the last two weeks, moved up and down the pitch really well as a team. This set-up suited them away from home and took the heat off those centre-backs, so much in the spotlight recently.

Pogba is a confidence player and having scored two penalties with that run-up, he wasn’t going to change it for this spot-kick.

Mourinho was delighted with the win after back-to-back defeats to Brighton and Tottenham
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Higginbotham did not expect Paul Pogba to change his penalty style but gave Joe Hart credit for the save
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But as someone who’s taken a few pens, when you turn around and run at the ball your mind is fixed on what you want to do.

That run-up is very short, around a couple of seconds and there’s no time to change your mind.

But Pogba’s run-up is much longer, he stutters, there are lots of steps, therefore he could change his mind a couple of times in theory.

He’s trying to outwit the keeper each time and that worked before against Kasper Schmeichel at Leicester but this time Joe Hart didn’t go for it.

Hart was brilliant, by the way, he made some great saves and kept the score down.