Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho guided the Red Devils to a second place finish in the Premier League this season. Mourinho, however, was not able to collect some silverware from this season in the cup tournaments; a round of 16 exit in the UCL to Sevilla, a quarterfinal loss to Bristol City in the EFL Cup and an FA Cup final loss to Chelsea.
This is the first time in his Manchester managing career that he has not walked away from the season with a trophy. Mourinho often hangs his hat on trophies to excuse his pragmatic and unattractive style his teams play. This is not the first time Mourinho hasn’t won any trophies in a season during his managerial career (07-08 season with Inter Milan), but it does not happen often to his credit.
This season, as well as others, rotted with criticism, which Mourinho has shown that he does not take well. The “Special One” can surely dish out the criticism as his players, old and new, could attest to. This arrogant display of coaching could be driving one of England’s most famous clubs, its fans and more importantly, its players into Mourinho misery.
Is Jose Mourinho ruining Manchester United?
Considering where the Red Devils were between Sir Alex’s retirement and Mourinho’s appointment, Jose has done a fantastic job. A Europa League title and EFL Cup title have all been won in his first two years. However, the process by which he has reached those titles and a second place finish in his third season have sprayed sports tabloids across the UK. When you coach England’s biggest brand of football, naturally, criticism follows. If Manchester United isn’t winning anything, something is wrong. Such is the nature of the footballing world today.
Mourinho hasn’t handled criticism well in his managerial past; the “Special One” prefers to deflect blame to referees, players, ownership, grounds crew, training staff and medical staff. It wouldn’t be surprising if he blamed his dog for not being a “good boy” to a Manchester loss. The point is Mourinho at some point has to take responsibility as to why his team isn’t performing well through stretches.
His arrogant reputation could be a match made in heaven for Manchester United; “who wouldn’t want to play for Manchester United?” or “who wouldn’t want to play for Jose Mourinho?” The match could’ve also been made in hell. The two sides agreed to extend Jose’s contract until 2020 back in January. The Red Devils may have signed a deal with the devil, as Mourinho has also had the reputation to berate, insult and devalue his players. Which players want to join Manchester United just to get roasted? Sure, a nice six-digit weekly wage to be thrown under the bus would draw a large crowd to sign-up. But the catch is they have to play a brand of football that they don’t like. And on top of that, the fans won’t like the brand either.
“The brand may not be attractive, but they win” is what fans of Mourinho-coached teams would say. Some may call Mourinho’s coaching style a little old school (a “do your job” mentality). Others call it childish; how is a coach supposed to get the most out of his team when he isn’t willing to humble himself for the sake of motivating his players? Mourinho hasn’t ruined Manchester United. Not yet anyway. But he very well could keep them in a miserable purgatory. Mourinho has relied heavily on the talent of his players to result in goals for his side. His players have come and gone with no public regrets from Jose.
Jose’s Past Players
Due to his pragmatic and defensive mindset, Jose Mourinho has made defenders better. The only problem? Playing good defense doesn’t get you a goal. It might set up a counterattack where the defending team could score, but then that’s attacking isn’t it? Not defending. The list of attacking players that Jose Mourinho has sold to other clubs has become a rather interesting subject in recent years in the Premier League. Here are the 3 biggest ones:
- Kevin de Bruyne. The best player in the Manchester City side that won the Premier League in historic fashion was sold to the German side, Wolfsburg, in 2014. The Belgian came back only a year later to Manchester City and became an instant success. This triggered the talk of Jose Mourinho not developing or trusting in any of his young talents. In 142 appearances for United’s next door neighbors, De Bruyne has accumulated 35 goals and 57 assists. While under Mourinho, de Bruyne appeared nine times providing only one assist.
- Mohamed Salah. The most recent example of Mourinho’s lack of faith won Player of the Year in England’s Premiership. The Egyptian was vital for Liverpool providing 44 goals and 16 assists in all competitions for his debut season back in England (52 appearances). Salah appeared 19 times for Chelsea, providing two goals and four assists.
- Arjen Robben. Mourinho said “thanks, but no thanks” in 2007 to the Dutchman after 106 appearances, 19 goals and 24 assists for Chelsea. Robben would go on to appear 65 times for Real Madrid (13 goals, 14 assists) before settling at Bayern Munich in 2009. 290 appearances, 138 goals and 99 assists later and Mourinho looks to have given up too soon on the player. The Dutchman has become a focal point for the German side since arriving in Munich and has become a Bayern legend.
Other notable players Mourinho has sold include the likes of Leonardo Bonucci, Hernan Crespo and Filipe Luis. Jose appears to have regretted some transactions as he has sold Romelu Lukaku, Juan Mata and Zlatan Ibrahimovic only to work with them later in his career and not sell them; Mourinho recently opted for the transfer of Lukaku to bring him to Old Trafford where Mata was already playing. It seems that Mourinho’s taste in players is about as inconsistent as his team’s performances; good and talented, but inconsistent.
Jose has plenty of talented players to work with on this current United roster. Paul Pogba was brought by Mourinho last summer to be the face of the new Red Devils. Much has been publicized about the relationship, or sometimes lack thereof, between the star player and his manager. No one who watches the sport will claim Pogba isn’t talented.
So why hasn’t the Frenchman been more successful at Old Trafford? Is Mourinho asking Pogba to do too much? Is Pogba hard to coach? Mourinho isn’t playing to the strengths of the players he has. “My way or no way” has been his approach with Pogba as the Portuguese hasn’t been afraid to bench his superstar; Mourinho has gone with less talented players over Pogba in important matches in the last couple seasons.
This stubbornness and arrogance of Mourinho have proven to take players out of their comfort zone. While that can be a good thing, it can also be a bad thing for the sake of the team. Would you sacrifice a title win for the sake of maintaining a system? New England Patriots coach Bill Belichek might know a thing or two about that.
Mourinho has most recently brought in Alexis Sanchez to play on the wing. With half a season under his belt, Sanchez hasn’t looked like the talisman he was at Arsenal. It may only be half a season, but the Chilean looked lost at times even though Jose was giving him starts; Sanchez appeared eager to push upfield, as is his style of play, but would then leave space behind him for a counter.
With rumors circulating about Gareth Bale coming to Old Trafford and choosing Sanchez as his first choice winger, Mourinho could again be alienating youngsters that need to develop. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial could be the newest names on the list of players “The Special One” deemed not good enough. Both have performed well with what time they’ve been given on the field and both are very talented. These younger players could be a part of the core at Old Trafford for years to come, but Mourinho may ruin that idea for the sake of his ego.
Is He Worth It?
The ego, the lack of accountability, the style of football, and hindering the development of the future; all of these features beg the question: is he worth it? Can the fans live with it? What about the board? The club seems to think they can with the extension they gave to him midseason. “The brand may not be attractive, but they win”. I have another question in response to that: “If he isn’t winning trophies, what good is he?” Yes, Man United qualified for Champions League. But doesn’t that phrase seem a little familiar?
Arsene Wenger would often hang his hat on UCL qualification or a domestic trophy to excuse Arsenal’s disappointing league and UCL finishes. The inevitable question I’m getting to here is: does Manchester United want to be Arsenal or the biggest brand England has to offer the world?
Manchester United is trending toward Arsenal-level standards with Mourinho at the helm. He has to do a better job coaching the players that he has available.