Jose Mourinho's Blueprint at Old Trafford is set for Success
Jose Mourinho has taken up the reigns at Manchester United. Old Trafford is certainly buzzing with the special one’s dealings in the transfer market and his first press conference. Lets not forget this is a man who is perhaps the most influential and decorated managers in modern-day football if not one of the greatest ever. Of course undoubtedly, that title goes to Sir Alex Ferguson.
Many Chelsea fans were naturally gutted by the news of Mourinho’s appointment as Manchester United manager. Mourinho’s second stint at the London club was a stark contrast from his first spell – Winning the title one season and then capitulating and self-destructing the second.
Of course Chelsea’s run of results in the first half of last season was more down to a poor pre-season, one that Mourinho oversaw. Also it was down to his players not performing to the high standards they set the previous season.
The extent of Mourinho’s contribution towards the downfall of Chelsea last season remains a mystery. It has raised questions whether the special one has lost the art of motivating his players. The previous season, when the Blues won the title, blues midfielder Cesc Fabregas was quoted saying,
“He (Mourinho) just loves winning,” said Fabregas. “I’m not saying other managers I have played under don’t, but he has some edge that goes above anyone else I have ever been with.
“The mentality he shows in every single training session, or game, I now understand why he has won what he has won in his career. He’s the best manager and he has to get results and he always manages to do that.”
“A manager that can motivate a player every three days, when you play 60 games a season, it is not easy. Trust me. Everyone thinks that we have a big squad, but we don’t, 22 players, and some of them are from the academy, and Under-21s. So it’s not easy. He actually is doing a fantastic job.”
What particularly went wrong at Stamford Bridge will remain puzzling for everybody but with his appointment as manager of Manchester United, Mourino has the chance to make amends.
The shrewd signings of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan signal a statement of intent from Mourinho. United struggled for goals last season under Louis Van Gaal. They had contributions from their entire squad, albeit insignificantly. None of their strikers crossed 20 goals. Which for a side that boasts such an array of attacking talent was worryingly less. Anthony Martial scored 17 and Wayne Rooney got 15 but that was about it.
Mourinho has inherited from Sir Alex and Van Gaal one of the best sides in England. He will set out from the get go to sure up United’s defense. The Portuguese tactician is renowned for building a rock solid foundation from the back. His title winning sides have all had one thing in common, which is, a defense that barely concedes goals.
Mourinho builds from the back and with United’s defense of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo in the centre he can forge an air-tight central defense partnership. But don’t be surprised if he ventures into the transfer market to strengthen further in that area with John Stones the most likely candidate.
At wing back he has perhaps the best two wide defenders in the English game, in Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw. They certainly will be asked to do a lot of work up and down the pitch on their respective flanks. Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia are definitely good back ups to have, but it is more likely that they will be asked to play higher up the field as wingers.
His midfield is more or less complete with the double pivot of either Michael Carrick, Morgan Schniederlin or Bastian Schweinsteiger as holding midfielders. This is assuming Mourinho does field a 4-2-3-1 formation. Whether Marouane Fellaini stays or is axed by the special one remains to be seen. But the double pivot of two holding midfielders is Mourinho’s most likely approach to his United midfield formation.
The number 10 role will be shared by Wayne Rooney and new recruit Henrikh Mkhtariyan. While on the wings Adnan Januzaj, Jese Linard, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia seem adept enough in slotting in. However, Mourinho’s usage of Juan Mata will be something to ponder about going into next season with the Portuguese having not favoured him at Chelsea and selling him off to United in the first place.
Mourinho likes work-horse wingers who can track back and defend apart from their attacking duties – A bill which Juan Mata doesn’t fit into. A foray into the market for a winger could be a possibility or perhaps he could rotate Mata as a number 10.
Up front Mourinho will play only a lone striker and he has the mighty Zlatan Ibrahimovic who will easily produce 15+ goals a season although he is at the end of his career. Having worked with Mourinho before, he will deliver exactly what he expects of him.
Anthony Martial will support, while youngster Marcus Rashford could see his game time much more limited under Jose Mourinho. The special one has never brought up academy players at clubs too much but will surely be urged to at United. However, as he points out, "You know how many young players I promoted to the first team from academies? 49. Some of them are big names, they are Champions League winners in the Euros, playing for national teams. One lie repeated many times sometimes looks true but it will never be true."
This team under Mourinho is geared up for success, which is a given, considering their talent on paper.
What will be interesting to see is the type of football Mourinho plays at United. Will he play much more defensive, counter-attacking football? Which he was known to play at Chelsea or will he open the floodgates and offer more freedom to his players and play more possession based, free-flowing attacking football? My guess is the former. It is a tried and tested strategy for Mourinho.
He will incorporate all of Sir Alex’s advice, which is certain, but will United fans support defensive football from the get go? It is definitely a thought provoking argument. Whether he plays his well know defensive, reactive result oriented anti-football? Or will he formulate his own hybrid brand of football and amalgamate Sir Alex’s swashbuckling attacking, ‘We’ll score more goals than the oppostion’ philosophy?
But my best guess is that he will not abandon his, ‘ If we don’t let the opposition score, we are more likely to win’ philosophy. That being said, it is a mouth-watering prospect going into next season. Either way, this squad is ready for the long season and success and Mourinho will deliver at least one title in the next two seasons.
As he puts it, "There are some managers that the last time they won a title was 10 years ago. Some of them the last time they won a title was never. The last time I won a title was one year ago, not 10 years ago or 15 years ago so if I have a lot to prove, imagine the others."
While surely aiming to get his hands on the Premier League title saying, "Manchester United for many years success was just routine and in this moment the last three years are to forget. I want the players to forget. I don't want the players to think we have to do better and finish fourth. Finishing fourth is not the aim."
Either way, it’s going to be box office stuff at Old Trafford next season. And just as a reminder, there is a certain arch nemesis named Pep Guardiola managing right across the city which should result in nothing short of a fierce, brutal Manchester derby in the coming seasons.