Why Manchester United must sign Marko Arnautovic
Judging by the kind of players that Manchester United seem to have after this summer, it appears as if Jose Mourinho has been told by the Red Devils’ board that he has to win the title next, one way or another. And it is because of those orders from the men up there that Jose is looking to sign tried, tested and experienced players rather than players who are young and there are question marks about their performances.
It might seem like an odd way to many United fans, but that is what happens when a manager like Jose Mourinho is brought in. A short-term approach is followed, with little regard to what the next manager would have to face. It is all about winning things that season and not about what will happen after that.
Additionally, when United signed Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal in January, it was clear that Jose will look to sign tried and tested players to increase the certainty of performance. But when the Red Devils were linked with West Ham’s Marko Arnautovic, many gasped in dismay. But there lies a deeper reason for why the controversial Austrian is being eyed by Jose and his men.
Its all over the media and its all across the United fanbase that signing a player like Arnautovic will be a case of receding into further mediocrity because the forward isn’t good enough for a club like United.
It is felt that signing a player like Arnautovic will lower United’s standards, even if Jose sees him as a second-choice to Romelu Lukaku. But remember, what Arnautovic boasts of is more fearlessness, swagger and arrogance than half of the current United side.
Currently 29, Arnautovic enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career this time around. All that, despite being in destructive goalscoring form in the second half of the season. And it all started off when after being frustrated with playing Arnautovic wide on the left, David Moyes started playing him as a sole striker up front.
Since that change, Arnautovic scored as many as 11 goals since the beginning of December, assisting four times. He hadn’t neither scored or assisted even once before that, mind you.
It isn’t just the goalscoring that has been impressive, Arnautovic has shown glimpses of being a near-complete striker. The arrogance and swagger with which he plays makes him a man who always keeps defenders on his toes.
He’s got a fast pace up his sleeve and ever since he has been deployed up front, the former Werder Bremen man has shown that he holds the ball up really well, allowing the players around him to join the attack.
The fact that he hasn’t exactly been a sole-striker before this past season shows that he can drop deep to set things up for the other players too. While he still isn’t quite the playmaker, but he certainly is a near complete forward.
He is never afraid to make his presence felt, one way or another. Jose Mourinho has previously managed him during their days together at Inter Milan and the would-be Real Madrid boss described him as having the ‘attitude of a child’, but also said that he is a ‘fantastic person’. And it is said that Arnautovic and Jose share a special bond.
Jose has played a role in developing and maturing him a player. He knew of his personality, strengths and shortcomings back in 2009 and there are similarities in the way both of them behave.
They’re arrogant and don’t really care about who loves them or hates them. They reach and cross any limits to win the game. And they can be quite dirty and no-nonsense about their ways of winning too.
It is probably because of that similarity that Jose decided to gift Marko a watch during their Inter days and the player still has that watch at home, said Arnautovic in a Daily Mail interview: “Back in Milan I thought we were training in the morning and I went in just perfect. There were no cars there. We were actually training in the afternoon that day!
“Mourinho is there with his staff and he stands up and starts applauding and laughing.
“He said, ‘You are my man. You come here five hours before training. I love you! Here, take my watch.'
“I still have that watch in my house.’”
While it is Arnautovic past that makes him the hostile character he is, Jose is someone who can relate himself to him because of the sort of person he is. From being involved in gang-wars in Vienna to being expelled from junior football clubs, Arnautovic has come a long way to shaping himself into the person he is today. And Jose is someone who appreciates the man he is.
And with him having played probably the best season of his career, it is easy to draw comparisons with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and even Eric Cantona. Not because of abilities, but because of the approach to the game and attitude. Arnautovic walks around with a swagger of his own.
Unfazed by anything, be it bad form or a challenge, he always seems to have an aura about him which shows that he will be the way he is, no matter what happens. He doesn’t back away from being dirty or controversial and that earned him a bad name among a lot of football fans. And while he can lose his temper easily, he is someone who is the most likely to kick an opposition player or a fan out of the current United players.
United have lacked that aura about themselves for long now. They lacked someone with an aura of arrogance and swagger this season, as Zlatan’s knee ligament issues and exit to LA Galaxy left them without such a character. And because of that, there were times when the side couldn’t muster enough spirit to lighten up games, be it against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge or against Huddersfield away, Southampton at home or West Brom at home. And it wasn’t a surprising sight to see Old Trafford give vibes of having pin-drop silence. They had nothing to shout about.
And with Marcus Rashford having disappointed during the time Romelu Lukaku was out injured during the fag end of this past season, Jose seems to have realised the need for a more burly forward than the young Englishman. Rashford has been utilised in the wide areas more than as a striker by Jose and he has been far more impressive in that position too. Same goes with Anthony Martial, who hasn’t impressed while playing as a striker under Jose.
In Lukaku’s absence, United have often looked incoherent in the attack, toothless almost. They don’t have someone to aim for while attacking because Lukaku’s imposing presence allows that. Rashford and Martial can’t do the job that Lukaku does largely because they are completely different kind of players.
But this is where Arnautovic’s role will come in. He, apart from having that swagger about him, is more of a complete forward than Rashford and Martial. And at the back of a formidable goalscoring season that also saw him win the Hammers’ Player of the Season award, Arnautovic has regained the confidence that he had lost during his time at Stoke City and during the early months of his tenure at East London.