With 2015 coming to an end, it would seem that the long awaited prophecy that Jose Mourinho would one day be appointed as Manchester United manager will be fulfilled. Ever since his Porto side won at Old Trafford knocking Manchester United out of Europe in 2004, the charismatic Portuguese has looked destined to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor.
With the Red Devils struggling for form and identity under the rigid Louis Van Gaal, the personality and more importantly the track record in both England and abroad of the Special One may be exactly what Manchester United are crying out for.
With Jurgen Klopp now at Liverpool and Carlo Ancelotti going to Bayern Munich next summer the managerial merry-go-round at Europe’s leading powers has cleared up as we go into the Christmas period. Should Manchester United choose to sack Louis Van Gaal, their options are running out quickly. Why the move has not happened already is a mystery to many with the problems piling up at Manchester United like the presents under a Christmas tree – should you be so lucky.
It is true that Manchester United have the most clean sheets in the Premier League and that stat has been thrown out a lot in defence of LVG but ever since that faithful night in Wolfsburg the so called unbeatable defence has been beaten again and again. Sadly this sacrifice has not come with the award of more attacking football and goals for Manchester United fans to feast on. The feeling summed up by the fact that captain Wayne Rooney has averaged a mere 0.3 goals per game under the Dutchman. And to add insult to injury Manchester United’s brightest attacking spark this season, Anthony Martial, spent more time tracking Norwich left back Martin Olsson, than he did in the oppositions box, despite scoring a goal.
For LVG, many of the problems have gone beyond the 90 minutes themselves and most noticeably involve team selections. From the constant switching of positions of players like Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian, Ashley Young and Anthony Martial to leaving certain players out altogether, in particular Spanish speaking players, like Victor Valdes and Ander Herrera, very few would feel settled under the former Barcelona manager.
Players such as Angel Di Maria and Javier Hernandez who are now doing well at their respected clubs have made their negative feelings very clear towards Van Gaal. The other main concern many have with Van Gaal is the constant selection of Marouane Fellaini and in particular Wayne Rooney. Both have been consistently selected despite a string of poor performances in comparison to fan favourite Ander Herrera and Frenchman Morgan Schneiderlin.
On the eve of Christmas and possibly Van Gaal’s most important game during his reign at Old Trafford, captain Wayne Rooney has come out in support of the manager saying “We are working hard, we are fighting with the manager to try and get the results and turn this season around.” It is clear that at least some parts of the dressing room are behind the manager. Ironically it was been widely reported that Jose Mourinho had lost the dressing room at Chelsea in recent months. So why is it a perfect fit?
Well it’s not. No manager that is still in the game can say that they, like Sir Alex, have won the Premier League, Champions League, plays attacking football and promotes youth. The one near exception being a certain, Arsene Wenger. But Jose does tick many of the boxes, most importantly a winning mentality. He has won league titles in Portugal, Spain, Italy and England. Unlike Van Gaal he has achieved this in recent years and not in the 90’s.
It has been said that Jose does not play attacking football. This is not entirely true. It is not the swash buckling football we have seen down the years at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ but it is a style based on power, pace and moving the ball up the pitch quickly. Sides like Leicester have shown this season that tika-taka, for all its worth, is not the only way of doing things in
the modern game. In fact in the season Real Madrid won La Liga under Mourinho, Real Madrid outscored Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side when they were arguably at their strongest.
When Mourinho is at a club that demands attacking football he can deliver. While his style at Chelsea has shown that with no pressure to play in a particular manner, he will play a defensive game, but his time at Madrid has shown that the ‘Special One’ will adapt his natural defensive philosophy. It goes without saying this is a far cry from the man he may potentially replace. Fans can only hope that Mourinho would also be willing to adapt to the idea of bringing through youth in the same way Van Gaal has. Fingers crossed the club will receive the rewards of Van Gaal giving players like McNair, Valera, Periera and many more chances in the first team. Whoever the manager may be next week, month and season.
Like Van Gaal (to a point) and Sir Alex before him, Mourinho would bring a personality to everything he does from shouting on the touch line to finding new ways of making other managers lives a misery. Mourinho is one of the villains of football but, maybe that is exactly what the red devils need to regain their fear factor. A game against Manchester United has become an opportunity that many feel they can take advantage of. As Thierry Henry recently said on Sky Sports, the big teams in England need to stand up for themselves and take control of the league. And for this, Mourinho is perfect.
If he could bring the mentality he had at his previous title winning sides to Manchester United from now to the end of the season it may actually be enough to win the league with nobody in the league currently showing any sort of consistency. The big question is will the board take that plunge?
By Diarmuid Gillingham
Follow me on Twitter: @Diarmuid_MUFC