Manchester United, Jose Mourinho and Some Perspective

I can’t really believe I’m writing this but I’ve decided to launch a defence of Jose Mourinho.

Three defeats means the world has fallen apart for Manchester United, apparently.  I thought people in this country have had enough of experts but it looks like that doesn’t apply to the world of football, just politics. 

Already we’re seeing stats comparing Mourinho’s United with Louis van Gaal’s, his Chelsea figures from last season have made an appearance, pundits are falling over themselves to offer a viewpoint… I’d say the football community have an insatiable desire for experts and statistics based on this evidence.

Somewhat understandably, a noticeable majority within the media have used it as an excuse to turn the knife.  A quick google of Jose Mourinho and stuff like ‘dressing room split’, ‘murky medical…’, ‘players shocked by Mourinho’s treatment of…’ etc etc. It isn’t good reading.

As an individual he has a strained relationship with the press; often showing outright disdain, sometimes being overly aggressive and always acting as if he’d rather be anywhere else other than having talking to you.  That means he’s going to get a rough ride more often than not, and there are plenty out there who just like taking shots at United as well.

Me included, but you’ve got to be fair.  So let’s break a few of those issues down a bit.  We’ll start with the losses, then move on to the rumours and other jibes.

The Manchester Derby Defeat

The Mourinho honeymoon period came to an abrupt end at Old Trafford in the first Manchester derby of the season as Man City ran out 2-1 winners.  In truth I don’t think United were playing particularly well beforehand and that display against City was no real shock.

City probably just about deserved that win but the result really could have gone either way.  Kelechi Iheanacho was played onside with such naivety for the second and there’s not really any way a manager can legislate for that, it is just human error.  Claudio Bravo was lucky not to give at least one more away for City and Zlatan Ibrahimovic saw a great chance blocked late on as well as they pushed for an equaliser.  The defeat is a bad result but there was enough evidence in that game to suggest United can beat City, which has to be encouraging.

… Feyenoord?

Yes Manchester United should be beating Feyenoord both home and away, but that’s not to say the Dutch side are a bad team and at De Kuip they can give anyone a game.

Mourinho has made no real secret that he’s not that bothered about the Europa League and going out early might not be a disaster all things considered if they’re challenging on a few fronts elsewhere later in the season.  I do think they’ll get out of the group they’re in regardless of that defeat though, having been also drawn with Fenerbahce and Zorya Luhansk. If they qualify this result will be almost irrelevant anyway – especially if they top the standings.

Come on, what about Watford?

Admittedly this is a shocker.  Perhaps the pressure of having already lost two in a row played a part here, who knows?  I didn’t actually watch this game so can’t offer any kind of analysis in full confidence but on paper this is a bad result.

Other Issues for Jose Mourinho

His treatment of Bastian Schweinsteiger is incredibly harsh, and some of his comments about Luke Shaw after that Watford defeat were below the belt.  In the German’s case; he’s been frozen out and Mourinho tried to get rid in the summer but there were no takers, at least none willing to match his wage demands. He could have brought him into the fold after the window shut but he’s decided there’s no place for the midfielder in his team and – quite clearly – now wants him off the wage bill in January if possible.

For Shaw; I can’t see how that kind of criticism helps a player but at the same time mountains and molehills spring to mind for the subsequent reaction.

Here’s what he said: “And here for the second [Watford] goal, [Nordin] Amrabat receives the ball and our left-back is 25 metres from him instead of five metres. But even at 25 metres, you have to jump and go and press, but no, we wait.

“This is a tactical but also a mental attitude. It’s something that doesn’t become perfect in a couple of weeks.”

Perhaps ill advised but then again it isn’t so bad, it may have been better to keep this kind of thing in the dressing room though.  Shaw has two options really – he either sulks or he could suck it up and step up his game, seeing it as proof the manager thinks he is capable of much better.

If United lose in the EFL Cup at Northampton later this could all go out the window but my thinking is there will be no knee-jerk reaction from the hierarchy just yet.  They’ve paid a lot of money to bring Mourinho in and then given him a lot more to get a squad together.  The United fans are a fairly patient bunch when it comes to managers, although perhaps there is a bit more urgency for success after the David Moyes and Louis van Gaal tenures. There’s certainly more to come from summer buys Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan and I’m fairly sure the now seemingly not-so-Special One will be given a decent amount of time to get them and others playing to their full potential.

This constant analysis and criticism is quite frankly boring, it feels like too many just couldn’t wait for the wheels to fall off and have jumped the gun at the first sign of trouble.  The money spent in the summer may have lead to expectations of instant success but you have to remember he took over a struggling, underperforming side and they will give him time to make it right.

For whatever it’s worth I don’t think Mourinho is the right coach for United and I never have done. I don’t think his philosophy on how the game should be played fits at Old Trafford, and his reluctance to use younger players is at odds with the recent history at United. However, now he is in the hot seat he deserves more than five Premier League games before a fair assessment is made, and the club will be thinking along those lines too even if the media are not.

Further Reading:

Stuff on Luke Shaw via the MEN.

BBC expert Danny Murphy offers his thoughts on Jose Mourinho and Manchester United.

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.  




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