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Klopp has shown that it is doable; Jose Mourinho has to be bold in the Manchester Derby

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So far, the battle between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho hasn’t lived up to the hype, primarily because there’s been one clear winner – and not just in terms of points accrued in the Premier League. Manchester City’s remarkable dominance has made Mourinho’s football seem achingly dull, and in doing so has left the Manchester United manager facing serious questions about his long-term viability at the top.

Mourinho is clearly an outstanding manager and United’s tally of 68 points from 31 games is more or less championship-winning standard (in a normal year), and yet Guardiola’s beautiful football has shifted perceptions in Manchester. The United fans demand attacking football: are demanding that Mourinho changes his tactical approach.

And so the Manchester derby this weekend is a huge symbolic moment for the United manager. If his side play their usual cautious defensive football, and are beaten, the tide might turn irreversibly against Mourinho as fans and the media grow tired of the contrast between the red and blue halves of the city. It is vital that the Portuguese shows a more progressive side of himself on Saturday, embracing the quick counter-attacks and confrontational tactics that defined his first Chelsea side and Real Madrid in their record-breaking 2011-12 season.

Although Mourinho takes great pleasure in spiting Guardiola with his frustration tactics (and supposedly chose his tactical philosophy to deliberately contradict the Barcelona model), Saturday’s game is an opportunity to lay down a marker for 2018-19 – to remind City that they are not invincible and that, after another summer of lavish spending, United will be ready to challenge their supremacy. To do this requires sparring with City on an equal footing, not sitting deep and absorbing pressure; at a time when Guardiola rules English football, these tactics give off a sense of defeatism.

But it isn’t just about perception; Mourinho’s traditional big-game tactics simply don’t work anymore – something the 56-year-old is finally beginning to realise. Prior to United’s 3-1 victory at Arsenal Mourinho had won just five points from his last 10 away games against the “big six”, scoring one goal and winning zero. That match at the Emirates was perhaps just an anomaly (United have since lost 2-0 at Tottenham Hotspur) but it is worth noting how open, and attacking, Mourinho’s side were that day. Recent wins at Old Trafford against Chelsea and Liverpool were also notable for United’s high pressing and confrontational system.

Stifle tactics are no longer relevant in the Premier League, particularly against City, who have only been hurt this season by teams that have bravely attacked the back four and unsettled their rhythm. Liverpool’s 3-0 victory in the Champions League in midweek is the most obvious example of this, but Wigan Athletic were also notably forward-thinking when they knocked Guardiola’s team out of the FA Cup.

Guardiola has decisively won the battle against Mourinho this season, so much so that the latter must change his approach or risk fading into irrelevance. The war is not yet over, but another meek away performance at the Etihad on Saturday could cause irreversible damage to the Mourinho brand. Attack City, and they can be beaten. Attack City, and United can lay down a marker for next season’s title challenge.

Twitter; @theadepoju