Will Mourinho be a legend at United?
There’s currently a lot of talk about Man United. Everywhere you turn there’s at least one guy with an opinion, and I live in a country that doesn’t really give a sh* about English football.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement seems to have made United the talk of the town over the past 3 years; even more so than it was during his 26 year at the helm. They’ve had all sorts of good and bad spells during his quarter-century stint, mostly bad since he’s left — and everybody keeps comparing the ‘new’ United to his own. Plainly put, that’s unfair!
To give you some context before I start ranting on, I hate Mourinho. It may be too strong a word — ‘hate’ — but I know of none other to use in such a circumstance. His arrogance is, and has forever been, completely unappealing to me. His mere presence at other clubs made me reconsider my affection towards them.
For instance I used to like Chelsea. I’ve been a die-hard United fan since the 98–99 season (when I was ten and first discovered them in the UCL final against Bayern), but having my fellow countrymen Dan Petrescu and Adrian Mutu play for them, had me sympathetic. That ended with the coming of Mourinho.
I used to like, and now like again, Real Madrid. During Mourinho’s time, though, Barça seemed the obvious choice. I liked Inter, because Lucescu coached it at one point, but switched to Juve when The Special One joined the Nerazzuri. It’s pretty safe to say I never liked the guy!
And then came the news:
Mourinho to coach United!
Like many others, I had had high hopes for Moyes. After all, he was hand picked by Fergie himself to continue the glory days.
He never struck me as a relevant coach, although pundits consistently considered his work at Everton to be top-notch. It was soon proven that he wasn’t cut out for the job and, regardless of what he’d say about it, all the time in the world wouldn’t have made much of a difference — he was clearly out of his league.
Then came Van Gaal, when many were hoping for Klopp. I wouldn’t say Van Gaal is a poor manager, but his style has nothing to do with what the Premiership is all about. Stagnant possession play, a weak transfer strategy by all means and, what was soon transparent, a very old-fashioned attitude, dug Man U. into a hole that’s tough to climb out of. If I ever disliked football, it was during his 2015–2016 season, when both my beloved clubs (Steaua F.C. and Manchester United) played awfully.
When rumors about Mourinho joining United started spreading, I have to say, I was ecstatic. Looking beyond my personal opinions about his character, I always accepted he was one of the greats. He’d won titles, both domestic and international, he, pretty much, done well wherever he’d been, and he had the notoriety to go with it all.
In fact, the simple idea that he was one of the few opposing managers that Sir Alex hated to go up against, made him a suitable candidate for the role.
The fact that Mourinho’s presence would bring Zlatan Ibrahimović on to Old Trafford (FOR FREE) and, of course, all the media hype created around it, just added fuel to the fire. Then came Mkhi and Pogba, after they both had amazing seasons. It was the beginning of a hopeful summer.
And the start of the season showed all that and more. Three (3) wins in the first three games and we were already overjoyed. United wasn’t playing much, but it was winning, and we hadn’t seen them do a lot of that in two years.
I admit, I didn’t expect it to go that well, but enjoyed every second of it. And then came the downfall: some losses, some draws, periods of enthusiastic football followed by unbelievable mistakes or, downright, misfortune, some poor refereeing and we were down. Way down!
United fans had had enough of that in the previous 2 years to have summon anymore patience.
As easily as they had gotten their hopes up in the early games of the season, they started turning against their club. ‘Rooney sucks’, ‘Mourinho can’t deal’, ‘Pogba isn’t worth it’ — all chants of panic from supporters — and unfair ones at that.
A new era: Mourinho
I might be sentimental when I say this, but Wayne Rooney should stay at United for as long as he pleases. At 31, he’s been the engine that’s been driving this club to greatness for the past 13 years. He’s become the all-time leading scorer and although he’s not as fast, as driven, or as hungry as he used to be, whenever he comes on the pitch his presence is definitely felt.
I agree with the fact that he’s less of a forward nowadays and he lacks some of the technique of Mkhitaryan, Mata or even Herrera in the midfield, but I also feel that, in order to maintain Sir Alex’s legacy of continuity (see Scholes or Giggs) he should remain a part of United and influence the likes of Pogba, Martial or Rashford in their development further on.
Leaving that aside, I find myself to be constantly angry with those so-called fans who tend to continuously criticize the club and its performance. I understand how everyone is a manager in their own living room and I often find myself in disagreement with Mourinho’s tactics or squad choices, however, as a whole, I can’t help but feel we’re on the right track.
It was only natural for the players to require some time before getting accustomed to their mates’ style. There are significant additions to last year’s squad, and even more importantly, to its mentality. Mourinho is on the right track with the strategy — unlike his former gigs he’s stayed true to United’s game — and he seems to stray from his own concepts and defense-oriented mentality.
Despite having tried to park the bus in a few games so far, he appears to have understood and adopted the Spanish football mentality of ‘scoring one more than the opponent’ rather than trying to hold on to a shallow lead for long periods of time. He brought back the ‘Fergie time’ mentality, which — truth be told — is as emblematic to the club as its colors.
He’s also taken care of the truly valuable players, so far.
Zlatan’s made his presence felt on more scoresheets than I had expected and you can see his impact on the game of the younger lads, Mata was entrusted with a greater role, Martial became more of a contributor and is a lot more present in the build-up, Rashford and Lingard are growing in the midfield even though they’ve seen less minutes than last year (so far), Jones has established himself in the back, Bailly has shown to be a true powerhouse defender, and the list can go on and on.
What United needs now is consistency and, by the looks of it, it’s getting there. Mourinho’s looking to bring back the era of the unbeaten runs and he’s managed to make us recall the memories of the ‘08-’09 season, with his current streak.
And even if the last few games were somewhat below par, drawing with Liverpool and Stoke in the dying moments of the games, I honestly think United is on the right track, performance-wise.
Opinions — Transfers and Tactics
Many say Mourinho is, in many ways, a dictator when he takes charge of a new club. It was easy to acknowledge his demeanor when it came to Bastien Schweinsteiger, during the first part of the season, when the german was sent to train with the youth team.
That said, he’s shown reason many times throughout his career, most recently when he reverted on his decision regarding ‘Schweini’, subbing him in late, against West Ham.
January showed Jose’s pragmatic side yet again, releasing Schneiderlin and Depay, at their request, enabling them to join Everton and Lyon, respectively.
Considering the grueling second half of the season and the fact that United was most successful when Mourinho employed a holding 4–4–1–1 tactic, the departed duo might have proved useful.
Lyon has, however, agreed to a clause which would enable United to bring back Memphis at a reasonable price in the event they would decide to do so. Considering his talent, should he regain his form, they might just want to do it.
When discussing new signings, there’s a lot of speculation concerning the likes of Griezmann or another attack-minded player joining Manchester United during the winter window, but that’s unlikely to happen.
What the Red-Devils should be focusing on is finding a replacement for Michael Carrick. Marouane Fellaini is far from being the playmaker United would need between the lines and should be replaced with a more composed, level-headed, creator.
United would also welcome a replacement for Smalling, with Blind and Rojo mostly playing the ‘forever recovering’ Shaw’s role this year. Smalling, 27, still seems to be unsure at the back at times and the defensive end is one of the areas that would still need improvement if United are to make the Top 4 this year.
Regardless of what is to happen during the second half of this season, Manchester United is finally back on track. They’ve spent a fortune on three players during the summer, but all of them have an obvious role, instrumental in their rise in form.
While the competition is truly great, they actually have a more realistic shot of making it through to the Champions League spots for next year and might just be title contenders for years to come.
Building on the backbone of Bailly, Lingard and Rashford, United will stay true to its core and, given enough time, they will rise to their former glory.
As far as Mourinho is concerned, as much as I dislike him as a person, with his constant frown and over-the-top arrogance, I wholeheartedly believe he is destined for greatness at Old Trafford, so I would appeal to all supporters to swallow their criticism for a little while longer and let The Special One convince us that he’s special.