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What next for José Mourinho?

Corey Bates
CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
837   //    28 Aug 2018, 18:24 IST

Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

After last night's sobering 3-0 home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, the atmosphere among fans both in the ground and on social media towards José Mourinho was in stark contrast to the one felt immediately after last week's defeat at Brighton.

Having been ridiculed for his team's lack of desire and attacking spirit at Brighton, Mourinho made six changes to the team that faced Tottenham Hotspur, and played an unconventional formation which saw midfielder Ander Herrera line up in a back 3.

This was Mourinho's reaction to a bland performance, he was not this time going to be accused of lacking fight and ambition and so he chose the players he could rely on to at least play with pride and spirit, turning to Herrera, Nemanja Matic, Jesse Lingard and casting aside players that he had seen surrender at Brighton a week earlier, namely Anthony Martial and Eric Bailly, who found themselves relegated from the matchday squad entirely.

Paul Pogba's untouchable status at United this season probably spared him the same treatment.

After the defeat at Brighton, the reaction from the media and fans was grim, with almost every pundit and journalist questioning Mourinho's credentials and suitability for the most desired managerial seat in club football. The reaction following the defeat to Spurs was different.

Old Trafford rallied around their manager, prompting Mourinho to show appreciation for their loyalty with an awkwardly long moment of applause towards the fans who stuck around until the final whistle. They may not have been so vocal in their support had United played as poorly as they did at Brighton, but the Old Trafford faithful acknowledged a performance that, although didn't fetch the right result, certainly had a more positive, attacking, dangerous style than the ones seen so far this season.


Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

This, though, suggests the problems at Manchester United are bigger than what Mourinho is trying to project. Having being asked prior to the Spurs game what his style of play would be, Mourinho replied: 'Winning style'. That in itself can be Mourinho's only justification for his 'outdated' style of play when compared to the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and last night's victor Mauricio Pochettino.

His style has previously brought him success and trophies wherever he has managed, but when the success and the trophies aren't coming in, what's left is a team not playing well and not getting results. It becomes a lot harder to justify a performance when the team isn't winning, and that is currently where Mourinho finds himself at Manchester United.

What's concerning with Mourinho is that he doesn't seem to have the passion for the game he once had. His sprint down the Old Trafford touchline in the 2004 Champions League first knockout round victory over Manchester is the physical embodiment of how he managed; he was passionate, fiery and unpredictable, his enjoyment of the game was evident for all to see.

In his tenure at United, Mourinho has himself spoke of becoming 'The Calm One', in a nod towards his maturity and 'peacefulness' since taking control at Old Trafford. Since pre-season however, Mourinho has become the opposite of a figure of peace, his rant in the post-match press conference against Tottenham Hotspur only serving to show his anger and frustration towards the media for painting the club as being in crisis.

But the unfortunate truth is that his demeanor is only serving to exacerbate the image of turmoil. It appears Mourinho has set aside 'The Calm One', and become 'The Attacking One' towards the media; if only he could project that on to the pitch.

For all his admirers and detractors, José Mourinho will always attract controversy. In his early career, he was seen as an innovative manager that was about to rock the boat of the established elite in football management, and so he did. In his time at Porto and at Chelsea, Mourinho proved himself to be tactically and strategically wiser to the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Rafa Benitez.

But now he finds himself in the position that those managers found themselves in over 10 years ago, being tested by younger coaches that are evolving the game, himself being left behind by a style of management that in the beginning brought him into the limelight.

Manchester United v Arsenal - Premier League
Manchester United v Arsenal - Premier League

With his team not playing well and not winning, the attention has turned to him, and in the modern game that usually only means one thing. But it's not too late for Mourinho to turn his fortunes around at Manchester United. To do that he must focus not just on winning but on developing the style of play he showed he's willing to put in place against Tottenham Hotspur.

Since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson, Old Trafford has been waiting for a team that can play with the zip and zest of a team driven by attacking talent and with a thirst for goals. With the likes of Lukaku, Rashford, Sanchez, Lingard and Pogba, United certainly have enough talent to deliver, but Mourinho needs to continue to allow these players the freedom to express themselves.

After all, attack is said to be the best form of defence, and when the defence is as poor as it has been, it'd be a wise move to focus on developing a style that focuses on scoring as many goals as possible, as Sir Alex Ferguson did.

Now is Mourinho's time to evolve.

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Corey Bates
CONTRIBUTOR
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