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Jose Mourinho needs all the support from Ed Woodward to challenge Manchester City

Modified 20 Dec 2019, 14:35 IST

Manchester United v Swansea City - Premier League
Sir Alex kept the then upstart Manchester City at bay by racking up titles during the twilight of his career

"Sometimes you have a noisy neighbour, you cannot do anything about it. They will always be noisy. You just have to get on with your life, put your television on and turn it up a bit louder." 

If you live on the outskirts of the aristocratic hippodrome that European football is slowly turning into, you will be forgiven for attributing this statement to Pep Guardiola given Mourinho's no holds barred attack on his rivals. But the phrase was coined not too long ago, Sir Alex termed City as his 'noisy neighbours' after United's fantastic 4-3 victory over the nouveau-riche Manchester City. Ferguson being Ferguson kept on winning titles with a team described as one of his weakest ever usually keeping City at bay.

But since then, especially after Sir Alex's retirement, City have darted into stratospheric success on and off the pitch while it seems that United continue to drudge out of Ferguson's era. City have won more league titles than United since Sir Alex's days (the score is 1-0 in City's favour) and have finished the domestic season above United for 4 consecutive seasons.

Barring an unnatural downturn in form, City will finish above United once more and in the process, cement its place as the dominant team in Manchester. It seems the gap between the two rivals is bigger than before but in reality, the current United team is being held back of their true potential by the perennial paranoia of 'the special/happy one' and Ed Woodward.

The results on the pitch continue to hurt the United fan base who cast an envious glance at the way Guardiola has got his team firing on all cylinders and barraging their way to the title but the only reason that United is huffing and puffing their way to the finish line is that Mourinho has not allowed his side to play with freedom.

Critics and Experts generally label Mourinho as a defensive coach and it is true that he has built his success around a strong defensive foundation. But Mourinho has also built strong attacking teams. During their 2 years of rivalry in La Liga, Mourinho's Madrid outscored Pep's all-conquering side by an aggregate of 14 goals (Madrid- 223 goals & Barcelona- 209).

Northampton Town v Manchester United - EFL Cup Third Round
Jose Mourinho's teams generally finish as top goal scorers

So, it is not that Mourinho is incapable of playing attacking football rather it is his philosophy that is hurting the current United team. Manchester United are far behind City when it comes to creating chances, attempts on goal and number of passes made. Mourinho's belief in having a strong defence as a basis to spring attack has become his Achilles heel. On paper, United have a strong attack with some of the most creative players across Europe capable of playing attractive and attacking football but Mourinho is restricting his side due to the choppy defence he has at his disposal. This is where Ed Woodward comes into the picture.

While Ed Woodward has done a magnificent job of turning United into a monstrous marketing giant but his deals for certain players have been rather questionable. Most of the players signed post-Ferguson era have been expensive and struggled for form, most notably of them Di Maria and Falcao. This erratic influx of players has left United with an extremely bulky squad with most players on lofty wages.

Manchester United v Swansea City - Premier League
United have struggled to replace the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic

There are currently 9 senior defenders at United (Ashley young has been converted into a defensive winger). Of those nine, Darmian, Blind, Shaw, Rojo and Smalling have not been able to cement their place as regulars. While Jones has become an able deputy for Mourinho, he remains far too injury prone. Lindelof and Bailly look like to be the future defensive pair for United. Rest of them remains far too erratic. Valencia and Young have proved as decent defensive wingers but are on the wrong side of the '30s.

While Shaw deserves the chance to prove himself, Mourinho clearly doesn't trust him and has earmarked Danny Rose as his replacement but United Board wants to give Shaw more time given his age and clear potential. This is where it becomes extremely crucial for Ed Woodward. Should he continue with the Board's insistence on retaining Shaw or should he fight along Mourinho to avail Rose from Spurs and other targets as well?

Woodward should not have to look too far for the answer. City's director faced a similar dilemma in Guardiola's debut season. Clearly having no trust in Joe Hart to do the job, Guardiola insisted on replacing a future club legend with Claudio Bravo. Before the season began, City purchased a new goalkeeper. Every critic, cynic and expert scoffed at the money Pep spent to shore up his defence. In hindsight, though, the defensive performances have made it look like an extremely canny investment so far. Not only his defence, Guardiola invested heavily in signing attacking reinforcements as well.

This is what has clearly hurt Mourinho. United are not having a bad season. They strolled through their Champions League group, and in any other season, would have been up there, challenging for the title. Mourinho is irked that he is not being backed in the transfer market the way his adversary has been allowed to.

Mourinho doesn't look for future prospects. He goes after a player who can immediately step up and deliver. He clearly wanted Perisic in the summer and now is on the prowl for another winger he believes will provide the cutting edge to his side and a wing back that will stabilise his defence. United's depth is not enough to match City and to be honest hardly anyone can claim to have as good a depth as City.

By now, Woodward and United board should know that there are very few managers capable of handling the United job. Mourinho is one of them and ideally along with Pep, the only one. It is not his fault that United have made erratic deals in the market before his arrival. Every Mourinho signing has so far proved to be a good one and he has the personality to attract the best talent across the world to serve for United.

While he has been branded as a short-term fixer, Mourinho's teams usually keep on winning. Look at the Chelsea side that won the Champions League and the Madrid side that has won 3 of the last 4 European crowns. Both the sides had Mourinho's most trusted players as key performers.

Mourinho needs United as now there is hardly any big club for him to lead to domination and Woodward need Mourinho to deliver trophies. Mourinho should take the shackles off this United side and let them play with fervour intent and look to finish the season strongly with a good run in FA Cup and Champions League. Woodward should back his manager to make sure that United finishes the season ready to assault at City's dominance next season.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and they do not necessarily represent the views of Sportskeeda

Published 10 Jan 2018, 14:56 IST
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