Man City have been the dominant force in England over the previous few seasons and Rooney believes Man United will need to try something different if they want to win the FA Cup final.
Mourinho’s first stint at Chelsea was massively successful and ETH could use the Portuguese’s tactics to break down City on Sunday.
Writing in his column for The Times, Rooney has suggested: ‘For City’s players, staff and supporters, the FA Cup final will feel no less significant than it does for United and I’m expecting an exciting, tight game. I have a feeling it’s going to go to extra-time and penalties and, for some reason, I feel United will win. I certainly hope they do.
‘How could they do it? Well, I think Erik ten Hag has to gamble a bit.
‘What City have had so much of during the incredible run they’re on is control. Teams have put 11 men behind the ball against them, hoping to keep it tight, but that has meant City not having to worry too much about what the opposition may do with the ball. It has allowed them to play the game they want to play.
‘My strategy would be to go the other way and ask City to do something different. I’d try something similar to a tactic José Mourinho sometimes deployed in his first spell at Chelsea, where he would get the likes of Joe Cole, Arjen Robben and Damien Duff to take up “half” positions where they didn’t come all the way back and defend when Chelsea were out of possession but instead cheat a bit and wait higher up the pitch in areas from which they could counterattack as soon as Chelsea won the ball back.
‘We always found it difficult to play against. When you were attacking, you were thinking, “Where’s Robben? Where’s Cole? Who’s staying back? What’s the communication like to make sure we’re dealing with those players?”
‘United could do similar using Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial: defend with eight players and have those two waiting in counterattack positions. That would ask City different questions: should John Stones still come into the midfield or would it leave that side of the pitch open for Rashford to run into? Should Kyle Walker go high or would this open up space?’
Can ETH replicate Mourinho’s blueprint to win the FA Cup final?
To play a perfect counter-attacking game on Sunday, Man United will need to do things right.
Firstly, they will have to play a 4-4-2 system and that is something, the manager hasn’t yet done at Manchester United. He’s always relied on 4-2-3-1 and in occasional matches, he’s used a 4-3-3 formation.
We doubt if Ten Hag will use a completely new system in the final game of the season and that too in the FA Cup final.
The second thing that defines a counter-attacking game is a team’s defence and without Lisandro Martinez, Manchester United are wobbly in defence.
Martinez and Varane have been rock-solid this season but Lindelof is not as strong as Licha. He’s been able to hold the fort but against this Manchester City team, absorbing constant pressure is a really uphill task.
Casemiro doesn’t have the legs to chase down two attacking midfielders while Eriksen or Fred is not defensively very strong.
Rooney’s suggestion is really great but Ten Hag is definitely not going to experiment in the FA Cup final. He has the chance to win another trophy and also shatter City’s hopes of a treble so this one is going to be really important.
Man United have beaten teams like Barcelona, Liverpool, Arsenal and Real Betis playing a 4-2-3-1 and in the FA Cup final, ETH will rely on this tried and tested method. However, he needs to choose his starting XI very carefully because that is what will decide the outcome of the match.