The press can be relentless at times. Particularly towards Mourinho. One thing we know for sure about Jose is that he is a very controversial man. You can never predict his next move. He could be lifting the Champions League, berating the media or insulting women. Consequently, he is arguably the most scrutinised man in football. But does he really deserve all the criticism ?
Manchester United descended into turmoil after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. The magnitude of the job was too much for Louis Van Gaal and David Moyes. United simply had to go big for their next appointment, and who is bigger in the managerial world than The Special One. This man led an average Porto side to the most prestigious honour in club football in Europe: the Champions League. He then took over a Chelsea side who were starved from trophies for 6 years (not including community shields), and transformed them into serial winners. In one particular spell, Chelsea won 2 Premier Leagues, 2 League Cups, an Fa Cup and made it to the semi finals of the Champions league twice, in just 3 years. Mourinho’s next assignment was different in many ways, one that would take him to Italy, and he would be given the job of managing a team that was rich in talent- but also rich in egos. Inter Milan. The trophies were incessant. Two Serie A’s, one Coppa Italia and a Champions League in 2 seasons. Then after a disappointing spell in Madrid, Mourinho returned to Chelsea. Once again an out of form Chelsea side. A Chelsea side yet to win the league since 2010. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happens next. Mourinho won his 3rd Premier League title in his 2nd season.
The unappreciated success
So United weren’t appointing any man off the street. If anyone was going to set United back on track it had to be Jose. And even his harshest critics have to admit he had a fabulous first two seasons. At the first time of asking he returned them to the Champions League through the Europa League and won the League cup. In 2017/18 the onus was on Jose to improve form in the league, where they exceeded the goal (admittedly, largely down to the heroics of De Gea but they still did it nevertheless). It was not a marginal improvement, but a huge leap from 6th to 2nd, where they were runners up to one of the greatest teams in English history. There are many reasons as to why this “achievement” is so underrated and overlooked. An example of one is the short space of time in which he transformed United. It took Sir Alex Ferguson 5 years of transition to implement his ethos and purchase the players who suite his tactics. A more recent comparison is Unai Emery. Arsenal fans are expecting 2/3 years out of Europe and the title race in exchange for a future underpinned by consistency Champions League and success in the Premier League. What people easily forget is that Mourinho took on a job even more challenging than Emery’s – while the Spaniard’s predecessor’s goast looms on his shoulder, Mourinho carries the burden of Ferguson’s legacy plus the remains of the obliteration that was Van Gaal and David Moyes. Technically speaking, Mourinho is not directly taking over from an autocrat like Emery is with Wenger, but he has faced the same difficulties as LVG and Moyes did little to convince anyone to bend the fabric of the club, that Ferguson molded so perfectly, to their will. So when taking this into account, it is shocking how famous pundits like Gary Neville can recklessly slate Mourinho yet grace Unai Emery with a 2/3 year “transition period” as a result of taking over from a dictator that Wenger was. The bottom line is that Mourinho is only 2 years into his United job. A job that required him to reinvigorate one of the biggest clubs in Europe. To take them out of the past, and put them in the present. He is already half way there. However, this is possibly one of the hardest tasks a manager could ever be assigned to and can not be achieved in 2 years.
The other side of the story
But many will argue that this is only one side of the story. The United extremists that want him sacked criticise his style of football. Some even question his tactical prowess, transfer strategies and man-management. And one could also infer that his solemn, unsatisfied demeanour can sometimes be to the detriment of his players. All of which, are valid interpretations, but none of which can be used as evidence to suggest that Mourinho is not the right man for United.
Its true, he does prefer to play a mundane, defensively rigid, “park the bus” style of football but Mourinho didn’t come to United to show off an attractive style of football. Mourinho has never had a style. He came here for results. To get United back into the Champions League and contesting for the Premier League.
It’s true, he lacks a link between midfield and attack that could be conducive to the fluidity of their counter-attacks. Although, people are forgetting Mourinho did, in fact, ask for another attacker, but was denied one by Ed Woodward. This leads on to the next accusation. The “scattergun” transfer approach is a term that has been associated with United in recent windows, often unfairly reflected onto Mourinho. Prior to 2018 United had done some great business- the signings of Matic, Lukaku and Pogba all helped strengthen weak areas on the pitch. This summer, he pleaded for 2 players, a centre back and an attacking midfielder, yet Woodward ignored his desperate calls. Ed Woodward has been a great servant to United in terms of his commercial duties, but he lacks the shrewd eye of the transfer market that a Director of Football would supply.
It’s true, he does radiate negativity and frustration. This is Mourinho though. He has portrayed himself like this throughout his entire career. The difference is when he is winning, he is praised for his crafty mind games. Yet when he is losing, people claim his demeanour is having a negative effect on his players. Besides, Mourinho’s every move is observed and scrutinised by millions around the world, which must be unimaginably stressful. He can’t possibly stroll about care free with a big smile on his face.
It is true, he does make it publicly known that he is unsatisfied with certain players. From my point of view, though, this is not a negative asset of Mourinho’s. If i were Victor Lindelof, for example, and my manager was constantly telling the press that he needs a replacement for me, i would be busting every limb, gut and vein in my body to prove him wrong. This is reflected in 1 man in particular, Luke Shaw. Last year, Mourinho told the press that Shaw was overweight and questioned him as a professional. Some went as far to say he bullied the young English man. He is now back in the team and looking as sharp as ever.
There is no point, though, hiding the dreadful month that Man Utd have had. There is also no point hiding the vital mistakes Jose has made as i am trying to be as fair as possible. While many clubs were optimistic about the new season and rearing to go, United were dreading it. A “pointless” pre-season as Jose described it, where United were without many key players due to the World Cup. To rub salt in the wounds they failed to sign a centre back. However, instead of looking on the positive side of things- Luke Shaw was back and 6 of his players had reached at least the semi finals of the World Cup- Jose voiced his many frustrations that included their disappointing pre-season and how unprepared they are. The first mistake. Question marks were then raised about his relationship with Woodward when he said “I want 2 but i may only get 1, i may not even get 1”. Disagreements and tension between people high up in a club are never positive signs for a club aiming for the title. Although it wasn’t his fault they didn’t sign a centre back, he could have taken some of the blame to shield his colleagues, an archetypal Wenger move in the early days at The Emirates. The second mistake. Mourinho then berated Martial for not coming back to help his team on the US tour after he celebrated the birth of his 1st child. In a season where Martial hoped to prove a point, Mourinho insulted him by leaving him out of the starting line up for the inaugural match. Three key mistakes. A loss against Brighton where, to be fair to Mourinho, it was his players who were to blame in a woeful display, and now people are calling for his head ahead of the game tomorrow against Spurs. Mourinho does make mistakes, but people can easily forget that the manager is not winning and losing matches- it is the players. Whether it is the added pressure from the media, or 3rd season syndrome or whatever that is causing Mourinho to make these unprecedented irrational mistakes, we shall never know. Everybody makes mistakes though, if Jose didn’t, he would be inhumane. If people just stick with him, though, then he and United will bounce back- i am sure of it.
In short, Mourinho and United have had a discouraging start to the season. Surely though, these mistakes don’t outweigh what he has done for United in such a short space of time. The majority of the condemnation he receives is undeserved. Yes, his tactics, player management and general demeanour are very unique and surprising at times, but they have worked in the past, and will keep working if people just get off his back. As i say, Jose has won everything, and he is the only man who can conjure up a way to revive the days of Sir Alex Ferguson.