Will Mourinho ever get back to his best?
After a 2-0 win against Paris St Germain in the Champions League in 2014, the Telegraph proclaimed Jose Mourinho a “master tactician”. Although many decried his brusque and often vengeful manner, Mourinho’s skill as a manager was never in doubt.
After winning the Premier League with Chelsea in May 2015, he was sacked only seven months later due to a sharp slump in form. Amid rumours of spats with Eden Hazard and Diego Costa, many believed he had ‘lost the dressing room’ at the West London club.
When he became manager of Manchester United in May 2016, he was widely believed to be the man to return the Red Devils to glory. However, it hasn’t happened that way…
United got off to a flying start, with a Community Shield win against league champions Leicester and wins in each of their first three matches. The Boffins at Tipsters Review even had a United premier league title on the cards, however, the loss to local rivals Manchester City, a surprise 3-1 defeat at the hands of Watford, and lacklustre performances in the Europa League have all hindered their chances of any success this season.
And as Manchester United lined up to play Chelsea, the media billed the match as a chance for the manager to show his former club what they were missing. Instead, his new team conceded a goal within 30 seconds and endured a 4-0 drubbing. During the match, Chelsea fans chanted “You’re not special anymore!” This echoes what many fans and pundits have started to believe.
United dominated at home against title contenders Arsenal and were 1-0 up for much of the match. However, they conceded an equaliser in the dying minutes of the match as a result of sloppy defending.
What are the issues at the core of this poor form?
The manager himself
The media recently reported spats between Mourinho and his players at Manchester United. This all started after his public criticisms of Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling. Similar issues are said to have led to his fall from grace at Chelsea. As someone who is very used to winning, the sharp decline towards the end of his time in West London was a shock and may have knocked his confidence.
Staff and planning
Mourinho recently ordered an inquiry into every aspect of first team affairs, from training, to diet, to pre-season planning, to facilities and medical staff. Yet this seems a little odd since the whole back room team at Carrington are widely regarded as among the best in their field. However, pre-season friendlies are vital preparation for any team and United did suffer from bad planning in that regard.
It is the (largely inherited) squad that’s the problem at United. World-record transfer Paul Pogba is still yet to live up to his promise. The way he stood around and failed to provide cover during the few times Arsenal went on the attack led to accusations that “he doesn’t understand the game”.
Morgan Schneiderlin, Marcus Rojo, and Matteo Darmian are simply not good enough. In addition, Anthony Martial still appears to be sulking after Zlatan Ibrahimovic took his number 9 shirt. The Swede is also past his best, as is Wayne Rooney.
While he performed well last night in the 4-0 route of European minnows, Feyenoord, his form in the premier league remains a cause of concern for trophy hunting fans. He has no long term future at United and should make way for emerging talent.
To concludeMourinho is a tactical genius. He may be suffering from a loss of confidence, and certainly needs to work on his man-management. But given time (at least two years), he should be able to turn around the fortunes of the world’s most expensive squad.