Jose Mourinho has admitted it is a gamble for his current Manchester United team to play attacking football because of their vulnerability at the back.
Mourinho, who has enjoyed huge success in his managerial career through defensive organisation, abandoned his normal caution against Tottenham on Monday night and paid the price with a 3-0 defeat that left United in the bottom half of the Premier League table ahead of Sunday’s game at Burnley.
The United manager has always felt a responsibility to follow the club’s attacking traditions, but the signings of star forwards Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez have not been matched by the arrival of any new defenders in the last transfer window, causing friction between Mourinho and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.
It leaves Mourinho with a dilemma ahead of their trip to Turf Moor in which defeat would signal United’s worst start to a season since 1986, shortly before Ron Atkinson was sacked.
Asked about replicating the positive approach seen against Spurs, Mourinho replied: ‘We are going to try. It’s a process that has risks, especially if you make the defensive mistakes that break that dynamic.
‘The teams that are really good offensively are the teams that are very solid from the back. In the Spurs match, we were positive and strong and I think the opponent, a very good opponent, felt they were in trouble. But two defensive mistakes in five minutes lost the game for us. We are what we are.’
Mourinho predicted a tough campaign for United during their pre-season tour to America and defeats in consecutive games to Brighton and Spurs, conceding six goals, have done nothing to dispel his fears.
‘I knew this season was going to be difficult because I knew last season was very difficult,’ he said. ‘I said that in the summer before the competition started. It’s not especially now. It’s not because we lost six points that this is going to change.
‘Two defeats are two defeats. We still have 35 matches to play. Last season we had a fantastic start and we won the first three matches. Then we lost a couple of matches.
‘Maybe this time we start with two defeats and who knows if we will have a good run that gives us consecutive victories and consecutive points.’
Mourinho has used five central defenders in United’s last couple of games and is unlikely to be able to call upon Phil Jones this afternoon because of injury.
Sanchez may return to the starting line-up after training all week following a minor knock. Mourinho may even be tempted to recall Anthony Martial, whose last goal for United came at Burnley in January.
The United manager is still awaiting the outcome of contract talks between the club and Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea.
‘I just know that everything is in movement and hopefully we’ll have good news sooner rather than later,’ he added.
Thursday’s Champions League draw pitted United against their former superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who is now at Juventus.
Mourinho managed Ronaldo at Real Madrid and said: ‘Juventus have transformed themselves into the biggest candidate for the Champions League.
‘They don’t hide their investment. Cristiano will be happy to come back to Old Trafford — as he was when he played against them for Real Madrid.’