Can Jose Mourinho win over the Manchester United faithful?


Although it hasn’t been officially announced yet, Jose Mourinho is basically guaranteed to be the next manager of Manchester United following Louis Van Gaal’s official departure this week. Despite winning the FA cup this season, Van Gaal’s time at United was tumultuous. He created a solid defense, took United back into the Champions League for one season, and promoted several promising youth players. However, he also splurged ~250m what should have been a title-challenging team, did not qualify for the Champions League this season, and played at-times dreary football that alienated supporters.

Mourinho comes with a reputation, but then so did Van Gaal. Mourinho comes with baggage and controversy, but as United fans found out, so did Van Gaal. Neither man will repeat the dynasty of Alex Ferguson, Mourinho has been around enough posts for everyone to predict how his tenure will progress, and end in three-four seasons.

Football expert Jonathan Wilson has already stated that Mourinho brings guaranteed trophies, nearly always winning the league in his second season with a team. While the Premier League, with six sides all with spending money and top managers next season, might be too difficult for him to repeat his success with Inter Milan, where he never lost the league, a title is not unforeseeable.

Leagues and cups are expected at United, and can be delivered through financially backing Jose Mourinho (already sources state £150m in spending is planned this transfer window). However true success will be found in two other categories.

The first real challenge is to win the Champions League. European competition is the one football arena where United can never make a claim to being the best. Even during Ferguson’s 27 year reign they only won two Champions Leagues, without being dominant in either final. It could even be said that Ferguson’s teams, despite normally being the best in England, could never claim to be the outstanding side on the continent, except perhaps from 2008-2010, and even that is in doubt because of the rise of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.

Mourinho won’t be competing in Europe’s top competition next season, however this may be an advantage in a sense, as he will have an extra year of investment and instilling his methods on the players before they make a proper fist of it in 2017-18. This is also an extra year for something to go wrong in the three teams that United will have to go through in order to win (Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich).

Mourinho knows how to win in Europe, having achieved success in the competition with Porto and Inter Milan. His cagey style and motivational techniques naturally lend themselves to cup competitions. Although with similar resources behind him in Madrid he never lifted the trophy, there should at least be some deep campaigns with United.

The harder challenge will be to keep the fans onside. United fans do not mind abrasive characters, the amount of feuds Ferguson got involved in with opponents as wide ranging as the BBC and Arsene Wenger certainly didn’t do him any harm with the supporters. If anything Mourinho’s siege mentality tactics will help the fans see his inevitable feuds as sticking up for them and the club that they love so much.

Where their relationship will be more difficult is the style of play Manchester United fans are used to. Although Van Gaal has built the best defense in the league, in three seasons under David Moyes and Van Gaal United have scored 170 league goals, an average of 57 per season. Ferguson signed off from United with his team scoring 86.

There is enough pace and trickery within United’s current squad, not to mention the reinforcements that will invariably arrive, to put out a vivacious team every week. Even if Mourinho sticks to his favored 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation as below:


This is even without factoring in how Wayne Rooney has evolved in midfield this season, or Marcus Rashford’s potential development. There is pace, technical skill, and creativity in the team above, the question is whether they will be allowed to express themselves under Mourinho.

It has been well-documented how restrictive Van Gaal has been with United. Wingers were not allowed to take on their man, they had to wait for fullback overlap. Strikers were not allowed to make runs that weren’t predetermined, dribbling was limited. Some of this will surely change under Mourinho, his title winning Chelsea side scored 73 goals and Eden Hazard wasn’t stuck out on the left waiting for overlaps. However it is a stretch to think that he will make United freewheeling, he demands structure from his players just like Van Gaal. Juan Mata after all was only sent to United after Mourinho decided he wasn’t attentive enough in maintaining his shape.

There has to be a balance between Van Gaal’s polished but boring United and kamikaze entertaining. It will be interesting to see if Mourinho can find it.

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  1. utdfan May 24, 2016
    • Mad About ManU Mourinho May 25, 2016

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