Can José Mourinho Turn Things Around At Manchester United?
It was supposed to be a resurgence when José Mourinho took over as manager of Manchester United, but his tenure is slowly leading the club into one of the lowest points of its recent history. Never before has there been so much pessimism at Old Trafford before a new season.
The idea was for Mourinho to come in and be the saviour, the guiding light of the club, but the Messiah hasn't led Man United to the Holy Land, instead what floods the media is talk of unhappy players, supporter disgruntlement, and friction between the board and manager over transfer funds.
There has been a progress since time since the David Moyes and Louis van Gaal years. It's just that, what looked so promising for the Portuguese manager and the club has waned. The three trophies won in his inaugural season was a huge step in the right direction, and a platform to build upon.
Yet the following campaign, the club did not win a single piece of silverware. Of course, the jump from sixth to second in the Premier League was a welcome sign of improvement. But such was Man City's total dominance - the point difference between them and Man United was the same between 8th position and 20th - that being the 'runners-up' was far less of an achievement than it should've been.
Man United has its own particular philosophy. Not only must you win, you must win well. This notion stems from the halcyon days of Sir Alex Ferguson, when you would witness breathtaking, attacking football, week in, week out - as well as trophies. Mourinho is no stranger to trophies but tactically, he's a pure results man: trophies over aesthetics. He prefers the conservative approach.
Though this only works when the football is on form. When it becomes lethargic, as we've seen, the trophies fail to materialise. Supporters then become impatient. They will put up with defensive displays if it yields results, the trouble starts when it doesn't.
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Thinking ahead to the next season, it's looking like more of the same for Mourinho and Man United.
Their big money signing of the summer so far is Fred, while Diogo Dalot is largely unknown and the purchase of Lee Grant will hardly get pulses racing. It's understandable Mourinho is frustrated when the likes of Liverpool are spending big and bolstering a squad that last season reached the Champions League final.
But it would be wise for Mourinho to stop searching for a quick-fix and instead look into youth academy. The Red Devils' most successful period came about as a result of sourcing young talent, then nurturing and developing them into top, professional players.
Under Mourinho, the majority of purchases have been made with the immediate future in mind. Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, and Victor Lindelof have been bought for immediacy in but their form has stuttered. Lukaku showed his true talent at the World Cup, Sanchez has only scored three goals in 18 matches, and Lindelof is reportedly already on the way out this transfer window.
Mourinho's man-management must come into play next season to stand a chance of success. Recently, his dealings with players have led to rumblings of some hugely talented individuals - such as Anthony Martial - looking for a way out.
This is a far cry from his early, successful days at Chelsea. There he implemented a 'siege mentality' in the dressing room and regularly spoke highly of his squad, both as individuals and as a team.
There is an understanding that a lot of what he says is just part of his persona, but where once, in the media, he was the lovable anti-hero - with the entire club, players and fan-base behind him - he's in danger of becoming he loathed antagonist - even to his own supporters. But only a manager of Mourinho's capabilities is able to turn things around.
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