Mourinho’s Manchester United make steady progress amid testing season
As the dust begins to settle on Jose Mourinho’s first season in charge of Man utd, it’s time to take stock of the progress made by the Mancunian Club.
Ending the season with 2 trophies ( 3 if you include the Community shield) is a definite sign of progress, although the Einsteins may tell you that Tottenham & Liverpool have made giant strides than United. It’s a laughable statement if you compare the trophy haul of United vis-a-vis Liverpool & Tottenham who have a combined grand sum of 0 trophies since last season.
It leads us to a different question altogether : Do trophies matter at the end of a grueling season or does playing slick, easy on the eyes football matter? The purists will advocate a combination of both, something what the legendary Sir Alex achieved over those trophy filled years at Old Trafford.
However, when it comes to collecting trophies for fun, there is no one better than Mourinho. Sure, you can have a snipe at him claiming his football ain’t pretty, but he ends perhaps one of his most challenging seasons, with 3 Trophies under his belt. The bottom line is that Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino & Jurgen Klopp will be more than happy to be in a position of relative strength akin to Mourinho.
Mourinho has shaped his squad to play to his tunes and they have responded with positive intent. Ander Herrera in my view is the arch typical Mourinho player. The Spaniard is tenacious in the tackle, is a good passer of the ball & shields the back four (and the shadow of any opposition player. PS: The masterclass shadowing job on Eden Hazard) in which United nullified Chelsea and hit them with pace and high pressing up the pitch which the critics enjoyed seeing.
Valencia has picked up where he had left last season under LVG & his stint as a right winger seems to be in distant memory. He has made the right back slot his own and when he bucaneers down that flank, his attacking instincts have created many chances. Sergio Romero has impressed and quite frankly no one thought that he will get so much game time. Paul Pogba needs to be played in the no 10 role to extract the best out of him. He regularly dwarfed his opponent midfielders who were no match for his colossal strides, close control & his ability to glide past a tackle in the final third.
Which brings me to the heart of this blog : Have United’s rivals made bigger progress as it’s been claimed this season?
Liverpool under Klopp have played eye catching football but as with their great teams of the past, they get undone constantly by clubs from the bottom half of the table. They still lack a No. 9 who can score 25+ goals & Milner at left back shows the need to strengthen the left full back area. The future of Sturridge will be a talking point through the summer. Even more interesting is to find out Liverpool’s resolve to keep hold of their Brazilian magician — Coutinho, when the vultures start circling. However, their long wait to win the EPL continues.
However, with no trophies won and the club just doing enough to nick 4th place from Arsenal, you have to question whether the club still has the aura to attract the best players in the world.
Tottenham have gone from strength to strength, but despite finishing ahead of bitter London rivals, Arsenal and registering their best ever points haul in the EPL, it was a case of so near yet far for them. Kane, Alli, Eriksen have proved time and time again that they are class acts, but the consistency of Heung Min Son bodes well for seasons ahead. Their defense is watertight and the midfield is as solid as it could get.
However, if there is one accusation against them it’s that their summer signings from the previous campaign , Janssen who was signed to ease the goal scoring burden on Kane and Sissokho signed to add steel and craft to their already impressive midfield, were largely anonymous. They need to win trophies soon or they risk a situation where in their top players will find clubs that will help them do so.
The lesser said about Arsenal the better. Sure, they won the FA cup again, but they have flattered to deceive yet again. They have the financial clout to compete heads on with any club, but Wenger or the boardroom or a combination of them decide against it. In Alexis Sanchez & Mesut Ozil, they have two players who can walk into any team in world football and make a difference, and yet they have collectively failed time and time again.
The boo boys have surely got under Wenger’s skin and courtesy winning the FA cup he virtually guarantees his stay as manager. However, the long term futures of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil is still up in the air. Quite simply put, Arsenal cannot afford to have a quiet summer window or they risk falling further behind. With no Champions league football at the Emirates this season, signing good players will be a tough ask.
If there is any manager apart from Conte who can claim to have enhanced his reputation from this season, it has to be Mourinho.
The media raised questions about his abilities and even had the cajones to doubt whether he can still cut it with modern managers such as Klopp and Pochhetino whose methods are apparently superior. Mourinho has given an emphatic response to those Einsteins. Trophies matter at the end of the day and even though his approach might not be pleasing and easy on the eye, he counters the opposition based on the day. And that’s what makes him the undisputed ‘Special One’ .
Expect him to rediscover his mojo and go all out in the summer window to sprinkle further star dust on a team which is surely and steadily getting back up.
Man Utd and Mourinho will be looking to ahead to add the UEFA Super Cup to their burgeoning trophy cabinet to further strengthen claims that they are rising back up again like the proverbial phoenix.