A comparative analysis of Jose Mourinho's and Alex Ferguson's work at Manchester United and possible solutions
Manchester United suffered a shock defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion yesterday which has somewhat jeopardized Jose Mourinho’s position at the club. Mourinho is into his 3rd season at United and has only managed to win relatively inconsequential trophies like Carling Cup and the Europa League so far. United have not been able to fill in the large void left by the incomparable Sir Alex Ferguson and are yet to win a major silverware since he left.
Ferguson himself was not successful in his initial years at United and took his time to build up the great United side that dominated English football for decades. However, Mourinho would not be given as much time and have to deliver soon.
It would not be very fair to compare Ferguson and Mourinho’s stints at United but comparisons are inevitable because Mourinho is without the most successful and celebrated coach to have taken United’s charge since Fergie’s departure.
Also, Mourinho has been coaching at the top level for the last 15 years and therefore, has enough experience under his belt to be compared with the legendary Scottish manager.
We would like to compare Ferguson and Mourinho’s work at United on the basis of certain key parameters and seek probable solutions for the predicaments faced by the Portuguese:
#1 Finalizing on a solid, consistent back 4
Any great football team’s success is usually built upon a solid and consistent back 4 and Mourinho has not yet been able to find one for his United team. He has dabbled with new signings like Daley Blind, Marcus Rojo, Matteo Darmian and Eric Bailly and kept faith on old players like Chris Smalling and Phil Jones but the defence of his team looks far from solid.
United are consistently conceding goals against big teams and none of their defenders has an assured place in the starting line-up.
Bailly is the best of the centre-backs available for selection at United but has not been given the chance he deserved. Rojo has been tried at the left-back position while Blind is probably better as a defensive midfielder.
Lindelof has not been very convincing and Jones is not very dependable. Ashley Young has played in ether wings and still is not sure of his playing position.
Ferguson always managed to find a solid back 4 for his team. He had a solid back 4 comprising of Gary Neville, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister and Denis Irwin in his initial days at United.
Neville went on to play for United for 18 years but the other 3 got replaced by Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra respectively. Apart from those United legends, Ferguson also managed to sign defenders like Jaap Stam, Laurent Blanc, Mikael Silvestre and Gabriel Heinze who had short but distinguished spells in Manchester.
Probable Solution for Mourinho:
Mourinho has to finalize a back 4 and stop making changes to his starting line-up frequently. A back 4 comprising of Valencia, Bailly, Smalling and Young looks good and should be tried uninterruptedly for some matches.
Both Valencia and Young are quite good at delivering crosses whereas Bailly and Smalling are tough and intelligent. The backup defenders could be tried intermittently in matches of less importance. The decision to sell Blind was a good one though.