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Jose Mourinho’s tactics have always had an expiration date – this is just earlier than expected

Aman Sridhar
CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
1.18K   //    12 Dec 2017, 15:12 IST

Manchester United fans are already getting weary of Jose Mourinho's style
Manchester United fans are already getting weary of Jose Mourinho's styleFirst Huddersfield, then Chelsea, then Basel and now rivals Manchester City. José Mourinho has led Manchester United to 4 defeats so far this season.

Mourinho is a great manager. He has won a lot in his career and has created a loyal following amongst fans and players alike (just ask the Chelsea team of old).

But his tactics have always had an expiry date. They're just starting to come a lot earlier now.

In the 2014-2015 season when Chelsea had an absolute shocker, and Leicester defied expectations to win the title, Manchester United had Louis van Gaal.

Van Gaal for all his self-confidence (bordering on arrogance), failed to see that the game had passed him by. He stubbornly stuck to his Dutch (the style of play perfected by Johan Cryuff) tactics and underwhelmed as the head of one of the biggest superpowers in modern football.

He resorted to long balls tactics, brash antics on the sidelines and unintentional comedy at his press conferences.

In a way, nothing much has changed except that United has bigger names up top and a different manager on the sideline.

Manchester United fans who have been spoilt by Sir Alex Ferguson have craved for a manager who could 'play the United way.' Instead, they got Jose Mourinho, a serial winner, and the 'big name' that fans had demanded.

And yet, against their local rivals in possibly the biggest game of the season, they resorted to playing the ball long, relinquishing control and allowing themselves to be pulled apart by a team with more passion, drive, and desire.

Manchester United players were terrible in the derby
Manchester United players were terrible in the derby

It's safe to say that Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are the exact opposite of each other. Guardiola lives by the Cruyffian ideals that were instilled in him during his time at Barcelona under the tutelage of numerous advocates.

Cruyffian football, in a nutshell, is about absolute control of the game. The opponents won't be able to play their game because you give them absolutely no time or space to allow them to do so. This involves fluidity within the team, with players interchanging positions and playing multiple roles.

Mourinho, still bitter about his rejection by Barcelona, has created a style of football that is the antithesis of Johan Cryuff's ideals in many ways.

Their time facing each other on the sidelines has been fraught with bitterness and angst. Mourinho has gotten a couple of big victories over his rival but, it's obvious that Pep has been the dominant one in the encounters between both coaches.

Last season when both teams were finding their feet under their new managers, City won at United after a dominant first half. Some would call that result unlucky, but the same folks would have no complaints after the recent derby where City played their neighbours off the park.

Mourinho has been adored by sections of the English media for his outlandish statements at his press conferences and cheeky behaviour when addressing other teams and managers.

And while these characteristics provide a bit of comedy and light-heartedness when times are good, they outline just how toxic his personality really can be.

The atmosphere he creates is tense and dramatic, which suits some players who go on to become his brothers-in-arms, but within the context of a football club, it invariably ends with a major fallout.

This was epitomized by his final season at Chelsea when he publicly called out his best players like Eden Hazard and led the club to one of its lowest finishes in the modern era.

Mourinho was out-thought and outfoxed by Pep
Mourinho was out-thought and outfoxed by Pep in the derby

Mourinho's mind games serve a purpose, at least in his head. It began this week with him talking about the 'wind factor' and how the City players have the advantage - directly addressing a perceived diving problem he saw with his rival's players.

This tactic isn't a new one in Jose's playbook, with him having used the same during his time at Real Madrid. During the game, the camera showed Jose ironically laughing a number of times at decisions that 'went against his team.'

His brash antics culminated in a spat that led to a farcical brawl between staff and players of the two teams, and finally with him using classic deflecting comments in the post-match press conference.

Every single one of these acts is a Jose Mourinho special. He has this ability to kick up enough of a fuss to paper over his team's cracks and divide the fans.

It's different from the arrogance shown by Arsene Wenger with regard to his own club's fans. It is a calculated, well thought out game that he has perfected over the years.

But it's this game that has been the cause of his downfall, and it looks like it will go the same way.

People have often criticized Pep's teams for not having a plan B. The same criticism can be applied to directly to Mourinho. Pep's style is attacking, Mourinho's defending. But when his teams don't have the chance to counter, he has no idea how to get his teams to play.

It is in these situations he resorts to his touchline drama, which endears him to some frustrated and emotional fans but incenses others.

Manchester United fans will continue to be divided in their opinion of Jose because of his ability to deliver trophies and his savvy public relations. But the problem for the United faithful is that his 3rd-season syndrome is happening sooner than expected.

The respect that he has built up will probably keep the ship steady for now. He has enough credit in the bank to keep him in the job for a few years but if United are to achieve the level of greatness they crave, simply handing out huge sums of cash isn't going to be enough.

They will need a manager with a long-term vision for the club.


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Aman Sridhar
CONTRIBUTOR
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