Make or break season for Jose Mourinho
The glorious past
Sir Alex Ferguson left Manchester United and went into retirement in 2013 following a period of absolute dominance of English football that stretched for over two decades.
Thirteen league titles, two Champions League crowns, five FA Cups, four League Cups among others were the achievements that well and truly elevated the Scott to an unmatched status in the history of English football.
Such success bred huge expectations from the insatiable United faithful who, like fans of any organization, wanted their club to stay at the top even after the departure of their legendary manager.
In an attempt to stay at the top, a few managerial appointments have been made. David Moyes lasted only for nine months in the job and was shown the exit after being accused of failing to live up to the club's expectations. Ryan Giggs took over as caretaker manager for the remainder of the season.
Following an impressive World Cup with the Netherlands, as well as his overall resume, legendary Dutch manager, Louis van Gaal was appointed new United Manager in the hope that he would restore the pride of the Old Trafford club by returning the league title to the red half of Manchester.
It wasn't to be and, after two seasons at the helm, LVG was sacked! The club was disappointed that the Dutchman was unable to wield his magic that had been evident throughout his illustrious career.
Credentials of the 'Secial one'
In came Jose Mourinho, whose title winning credentials were there for everyone to see. The Portuguese had won league titles in almost all major leagues in Europe, bar France and Germany where he hasn't been.
He was hugely successful at FC Porto, winning the UEFA Cup, Portuguese league cup twice, and the Taca de Portugal. He was then hired by Roman Abramovich in 2004 to replace Claudio Ranieri who had finished second to Arsenal in the Gunners' historic unbeaten season.
Mourinho went on to break the Ferguson/Wenger monopoly by winning and retaining the league in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, conceding the fewest number of goals in Premier League history in the first of two triumphs.
He later joined Inter Milan in 2008 and carried on with his amazing achievements, winning the league on two successive occasions, the Coppa Italia and the European Champions League in his three seasons in charge of the Nerazurri before leaving for Real Madrid in 2010.
At Real Madrid, Mourinho carried on with his sweeping achievements, winning the Copa del Rey in his first season before going on to win La Liga with absolute swagger. His team, led by Cristiano Rinaldo, Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria, displayed astonishing attacking football.
He left Real on a low after falling out with the Spanish press, rejoining Chelsea where he won the league in his second season in charge at Stamford Bridge before being sacked the following season.
With Manchester United parting ways with LVG, Jose Mourinho was appointed manager of the Red Devils in 2016 in their desperate need to win the Premier League and return the club where they belong.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man
Appointing Jose Mourinho was clearly a safe bet given the special one's managerial CV. Prior to his appointment, the Portuguese tactician had never failed to win a league title within his second season in charge of any major club around Europe.
Many had expected Ryan Giggs to takeover as manager, but the club weren't prepared to take a gamble with a rookie and chose to go for experience.
Despite his record in the title winning stakes, Jose Mourinho is now entering his third season at Old Trafford without a straightforward shot at the title. In his first season at United, Mourinho's men finished a distant 6th in the table with 69 points, a whopping 24 points behind eventual champions Chelsea, having scored a paltry 54 goals.
Identifying the core of the problems
Embarrassingly, United were even outscored by Bournemouth who had 55 goals, (with all due respect to Eddy Howe's men) despite spending hugely on star names like Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailley.
I'm convinced that Mourinho would have been in for scathing criticisms from all corners, had he not salvaged his season by winning the Europa League, thereby gaining an automatic place in the group stage of the 2017-18 Champions League.
In terms of the table, last season was an improvement as the Red Devils finished second behind Pep Guardiola's City. That was the best league finish for United since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013.
In terms of the points though, United ended the season 19 points adrift of City, indicating the gulf in class between the two clubs with regard to their performances during the course of the season. Even in Europe, United didn't fare well enough as they were knocked out of the Champions League by Sevilla at the round of 16.
In spite of an array of attacking talent at his disposal, Jose Mourinho has frustrated the Old Trafford faithful by employing a safety-first approach to games, repeatedly relinquishing possession and waiting to capitalize on counterattacks and set pieces.
In doing so, Mourinho's defensive approach has frustrated the attacking players at the club, with some having reported burst ups with the Portuguese.
Paul Pogba confessed during the World Cup in Russia that he had had misunderstandings with his club manager, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan claims to be much happier at the Emirates than he was at Old Trafford, specifically due to the difference in the philosophy of Arsene Wenger/Unai Emery and Jose Mourinho.
Analyzing the gameplay from the players' point of view
Since his transfer to Old Trafford, Chile forward Alexis Sanchez has struggled to impress, majorly due Mourinho's tactical setup. At United, Sanchez has had to pick the ball from his own half and take it forward and by the time he reaches shooting distance, the opposition players have either reorganized or squared him up to dispossess him.
In the end, he either turns around to pass it backwards, square or tries a spectacular pass into the opposition box, most of the time playing into the opposition's hands. Yet at Arsenal, Barcelona, Udinese or the national team, Sanchez operated majorly in the final third where he would dribble past one or two players to shoot at goal.
His defensively orchestrated games at times leaves his lead striker, Romelu Lukaku in total isolation, starved of service leading to low goal returns. This explains why they scored only 68 goals last season, the lowest among the top six teams in the Premier League last season.
Paul Pogba, who sees himself as a playmaker often finds himself playing too deep to influence games from an attacking sense and is said to have been the cause of his unhappiness with his manager last season that saw him dropped for young Scott McTominay.
Perhaps we could see him in more attacking areas now that Brazilian midfielder, Fred has arrived from Shakhtar Donestk.
Looking at the present and the future
In his two seasons at Old Trafford, Jose Mourinho has provided more questions than answers, creating discontent among many people including club legends Gary Neville and Paul Scholes due to his defensive displays, especially at Old Trafford.
Historically, United are an attacking team. They have always scored goals. By Mourinho turning them into a defensive side, he is destroying the culture that Sir Alex Ferguson and others before him struggled to establish.
Goals win football matches and with United's league opponents badly outscoring them, it will be extremely difficult for Mourinho to win the league. He needs to rediscover his attacking mojo that he used at Real Madrid in his title winning season if he is to fulfill the utmost desire of the Manchester United faithfuls; to return Old Trafford to their winning mentality!