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Back off Jose! Why Mourinho needs to trust his Man Utd players against Liverpool

COMMENT: Three games. Three points. Two goals. That's it. That's all Manchester United and Liverpool have to show for 270 minutes of football...

...or to be fair, that's all Jose Mourinho has to show for three games against Liverpool as United manager. Because if we're served up the same dross come high noon on Saturday, there'll be only one man to blame.

For Mourinho, Old Trafford on Saturday could be a watershed moment for him and this United team.

Momentum is with these United players. Crystal Palace on Monday was a telling night. But it would never have happened without the previous Sunday's result against Chelsea. Both games won coming from behind. Both achieved by Mourinho releasing the players from his tactical shackles. A Carrington source told this column last week the players "were bouncing" in the days after Chelsea. Forget the trophies won last season (all three of 'em, our source insists on telling us!), the manner of the Chelsea result meant so much more in the growth of this team.

The staff could see something significant had happened. It was a seminal moment. That belief generated from fighting back and beating a top four rival was the same the players tapped into for Selhurst Park this week. Chelsea was no fluke. It was no smash and grab. United didn't work their way back into the game, they dived in head first. As they did at Palace on Monday night.

Romelu Lukaku has never played better in a United shirt. Nor Nemanja Matic. Their past two games reason enough why Mourinho demanded Ed Woodward, United's vice-chairman exec, do everything he could to bring his two former Blues to Old Trafford. Monday's matchwinner, Matic, was outstanding against Chelsea the previous week. It was the Serb, not N'Golo Kante, who was the most influential player on the pitch.

But this fortnight goes further. Jesse Lingard has been as good as anyone these past two weeks. Against Chelsea his header won the game. For Palace, at fullback, Lingard helped shift the initiative to United's favour after the break.

These six points were achieved through the players. Their talent. Their drive. Mourinho had a hand, of course, but his team face Liverpool on Saturday in form generated by his players, not from tactics marked out on his office whiteboard. Nor, it should be highlighted, from the heroics of David de Gea. In both games, De Gea was at fault for goals conceded. Yet, those in front of him still found a way to win - something rare in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.

The manager should be pleased. Proud. His players won back-to-back thrillers thanks to their own initiative. Their own belief in eachother. The question now is: does his belief in them stretch to Saturday at Old Trafford? Or better yet, does Mourinho trust his players against a Jurgen Klopp team?

Eight games they've come together - Klopp and Mourinho - with Mourinho managing to win only the once. The United manager also suffered one of his heaviest defeats against the German - a 4-1 thumping for his Real Madrid at Borussia Dortmund. That was almost five years ago, but given the way Mourinho has micro-managed their past three encounters, the scars are still there.

Grind it out. Play for the draw. Maybe nick a late a winner. That's what most of us expect from Mourinho on Saturday. Revert back to type. Why not? It's all about the result, after all...

Or is it? Because even if they were to beat Liverpool, but with a performance borne from Mourinho's office at Carrington, it'll do nothing for the development of this young team.

Momentum is with these United players. At Palace. Before then, against Chelsea. They showed what they can achieve if given their head. For the sake of what he's seeking to build, Mourinho just needs to back off come Saturday.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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