After his first full season in charge, he has three throphies in the bag, achieved Champions League qualification and spent millions. Has Jose Mourinho actually improved Man Utd?
Manchester United is a global force, a football team renowned for its tradition of playing attractive, attacking football and promotion of youth players. Over the past two decades, the club enjoyed unrivalled success on the domestic and European front due to the tactical masterclass of Sir Alex Ferguson. However since the retirement of the Scotman, the club has witnessed mixed fortunes.
David Moyes, the Chosen One failed dismally to fit into Sir Alex’s shoes and was sacked after just seven months in charge. In a bid to revive their fortunes the club appointed Louis Van Gaal, a manager with a glowing reputation of managing top European clubs and winning numerous trophies. After buying Angel Di Maria for a record British fee of £59,7 million and recruiting lethal striker Radamel Falcao, optimism returned to Old Trafford with the club hopeful of challenging for the domestic league title.
A top four finish in Van Gaal’s first season was met with a few frowns but he was forgiven for the club was still in transition. However the style of play, so interwoven to the Manchester United fabric was lacking. The media quickly labelled the club as ‘boring United’ with backward passes and lack of an attacking edge becoming the norm.
Club record signing Angel Di Maria flopped and was swiftly sold to PSG for £44 million, while Radamel Falcao joined Chelsea on loan after growing frustrated by his peripheral role in the team.
During his second season in charge, the Dutchman’s fate looked increasingly likely to be sealed. Old Trafford, which was once an impenetrable fortress, was breached by lesser teams such as Swansea and more.
Despite ultimately winning the FA Cup, Van Gaal’s fate had been sealed after failing dismally to qualify for the Champions League for the second time in three years. A few days after his sacking, the club appointed Jose Mourinho, supposedly one of the best managers in world football.
The euphoria which surrounded his appointment was of the highest magnitude. Despite being sacked by Chelsea during the 2015/16 season, very few would argue that Mourinho is one of the best tacticians in world football. A man renowned for his meticulous study of opponents, incessant mind games and of famously parking the bus when playing against better opponents, the club seemingly made the right choice in appointing him.
However, there were a few people in the Manchester United board who voiced their disapproval with Mourinho’s management style not being in tandem with Manchester United traditions. So here we look at Mourinho’s first season in charge and see if there was any improvement as far as Manchester United is concerned.
“I have promoted 49 youth players from Academies. If you want, I can give you that list,”
This was the claim from Mourinho claimed during his first conference as Manchester United manager. He was vehemently denying that he had no concrete youth policy and that he favoured more experienced players for results. He later silenced his critics by giving teenagers more mins than any other manager in the Premier League.
Between Rashford and Dutch defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Mourinho has given a total of 1,445 Premier League minutes to teenagers this season. That is not only the most of all the top clubs, but more than double all the others combined as well, according to 90min.com.
STYLE OF PLAY
After recruiting the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba it was inevitable that Manchester United’s style of play was going to change. The team became markedly stronger and faster and relentless in attack, much the epitome of Sir Alex’s success. However against teams like Liverpool and Manchester City, the team faltered and Mourinho returned to his usual basic self, by parking the proverbial bus. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a summer recruit couldn’t instigate Man Utd attacks and was occasionally sluggish.
Despite drawing 0-0 against Liverpool at Anfield, Mourinho’s United had just 35% ball possession. It was the lowest possession stats United registered in Premier League history since Opta records began in 2003. Against Manchester City, Mourinho broke that record again and posted a 31 percent ball possession much to the chagrin of the fans. So to say the style of play has markedly improved would be an overstatement.
Manchester United has always been a club of trophy bagging. Sir Alex Ferguson’s 20+ years reign ia characterized by numerous trophies both on the domestic and European fronts. One thing the United board seemed to all agree on was the ability of Jose Mourinho to bring trophies to Manchester United nomatter how he did that.
The Portuguese tactician didn’t disappoint either with his team winning the Community Shield, League Cup and the Europa League which ultimately guaranteed him a Champions League ticket. His theory that a manager is judged by the amount of trophies he has won proved right as a sixth placed finish in the Premier League was quickly forgotten.
One of the advantages of appointing a top class manager rests in his ability to acquire top players. David Moyes failed in his attempt to sign Toni Kroos, Cesc Fabregas and Gareth Bale simply due to the fact that he was so far down the pecking order. The pulling effect that managers like Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho have on players was simply lacking. His acquisition of Fellaini from Everton effectively summarised his futile attempts in the summer transfer window.
Mourinho meanwhile arrived with a big personality and big ego, and could attract the very best players in World football.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan was quickly snapped from Borrusia Dortmund while Eric Bailly was acquired from Villareal. Despite being involved in the Euros with Sweden, free agent Zlatan Ibrahimovic had been widely tipped to be joining Manchester United and the media were not disappointed as he confirmed his signing for Manchester United a few days after Sweden failed to qualify for the next round.
£89m world record summer signing Paul Pogba arrived a bit later than wanted, but arrived at the club ahead of the season kick off, making his debut in the second League game of the season against Southampton.
Overall the signings became instant hits with Bailly becoming a rock at the back, Pogba and Mkhitaryan providing the much neeed midfield guile. Ibrahimovic’s 26 goals in all competitions proved decisive in Mourinho’s trophy winning campaign.
It looks as though Manchester United are in a great shape heading for the 2017/18 footballing season. The club has recruited lethal Everton striker Romelu Lukaku for a British record £75million and added towering former Benfica defender Victor Lindelof to their ranks. Nemanja Matic has also complete a £40m switch from Chelsea in a move which will strengthen the Man Utd midfield and allow Pogba to further express himself.
It looks as though Mourinho did just enough to make his first season a success by giving youth more minutes, improving United’s attacking style of play and by winning trophies. However it remains to be seen if he will continue to lead the club towards where it deserves to be, which may be the best team in the world.
How do you think Mourinho has done in his first full season at Old Trafford? What about the signings so far this season? Who else should United target?