For Jose Mourinho, the ends have always justified the means. For the Portuguese manager, pragmatism will always trump pageantry and a draw against a formidable opponent will never be a bad result.
On Saturday, as Manchester United produced their first real Mourinho master class in cynicism, the Special One will have felt his side are on the right path.
It was a dismal encounter in which Manchester United forfeited any prospect of victory by refusing to commit bodies forward. They showed resiliency in defence but absolutely nothing else, hoping that as the game wore on Liverpool would open up defensively so that United could apply the famous counter attacking sucker punch.
Chelsea fans will be familiar with the pattern at play here. Results like the one yesterday formed the bedrock of Mourinho’s title wins at Stamford Bridge, as that team kept their points tally ticking over with similarly steadfast defensive displays.
This time around, however, it might not be enough.
Manchester City have set a blistering early pace in the title race and show no signs of slowing down. The Liverpool team that United failed to trouble was the same one that had been dismantled by City earlier in the season.
Liverpool have been defensively inept for a long time and may have been there for the taking by an opponent with bravery and intent. But that is not how Mourinho operates.
His risk-averse strategy had the effect of paralysing United’s attacking players. Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have been sensational for United this season, but here they became peripheral figures, sacrificed in the name of the system.
Pep Guardiola may just be the antithesis of Mourinho and as if to prove the point, his City team went out and put seven goals past Stoke City the same afternoon.
Guardiola is every bit as uncompromising to his own philosophy as Mourinho is. Guardiola’s, however, is an inherently positive one. A philosophy predicated on attack from every part of the pitch and from every player. Yes, Manchester City will concede goals as a result, but the likelihood is that they will outscore most opponents.
And that might just be enough this season. Manchester City would have tested that Liverpool defence at every opportunity and with Gabriel Jesus and Kevin de Bruyne at the top of their game right now, they probably would have won.
Come the end of the season Manchester United could be left to count the cost of their lack of ambition in games such as this.
We could be looking at one of the all-time highest points tallies to win the Premier League this year and Manchester City look far less likely to settle for draws in the manner that United did yesterday.
Mourinho has stuck to a blueprint for success that has worked for him on multiple occasions in the past. But this could be the year that draws against the top sides just won’t be good enough.
Kevin Boyle, Pundit Arena