Jose Mourinho put together a game plan against Barcelona that left the world's best team with little answers. Mourinho, ever the chess master, had his players so well-drilled that there was no stone unturned.
Tony Cascarino of the Times writes of how Mourinho's tactics could provide a lesson to be learned by managers of the Premier League.
There will be more failures in Europe to come unless Barclays Premier League managers wise up. Their problem is tactics, not talent.
Arsenal could have conceded a dozen goals over two legs against Barcelona, but Mourinho’s Inter held out for so long in the Nou Camp despite playing most of the game with ten men. It was only in the final minutes that cracks began to appear in a back line that had withstood incredible pressure from the greatest attacking force on the planet.
The game is like chess for Mourinho. His players are so well drilled that they know where to be at all times. Mourinho’s teams are versatile, and with that comes confidence, because the players are never insecure. They’re never wondering: what am I supposed to do now? There was no sense of despair when Thiago Motta was sent off last night. Inter adapted instantly.
Once Zlatan Ibrahimovic had been substituted, they pushed Barcelona wide and made them cross high balls, knowing that the home side posed no aerial threat. Inter were so certain of holding their shape that they weren’t afraid to concede possession. They closed down Barcelona’s passers, but didn’t get so tight that they could be duped. Until the end, all the holes were filled in and around the box so there was no space for a cute one-two to set Lionel Messi clear.
A Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsène Wenger team couldn’t defend like that. There isn’t the organisation, discipline or awareness. It would be last-ditch stuff, panic stations. Nothing about Inter was desperate.
Tactics in England, even for foreign managers, means deciding on a formation and line-up, then taking off a forward for a defender if winning, or throwing caution to the wind if losing. It’s no longer good enough, and that will be increasingly true when the next generation, Mourinho disciples, emerge.
It’s no fluke that the tournament’s three best tacticians — Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and Louis van Gaal — reached the last four. They adapt cleverly and decisively. The mentality in England still relies more on character: slugging opponents like it’s a boxing match.
Mourinho shows up as nonsense the idea that a manager is powerless on the touchline. This tie was full of twists and he always had an answer. Defensive yesterday, Inter were devastating in attack in the first leg.
They will play Bayern Munich in the final, yet the Germans are nowhere near as good as Manchester United. The difference is that Van Gaal, their head coach, outwitted his counterpart. Wenger, the Arsenal manager, is constantly said to have “no plan B”. How’s he ever going to win the Champions League when Mourinho has plans from A to Z?