Manchester United started this current football season on a brilliant note, winning the first few matches with high score-lines: and many observers felt they were about see a pattern that has hallmarked the managerial career of United’s manager, Jose Mourinho. Records have it that Portuguese tactician almost always wins a major trophy – most times the league trophy – after his second season in a new club. And this was what his admirers said last year when Mourinho’s team finished sixth on the league table . They argued that the team he inherited from Loius Van Gal did not have sufficient time to take in his football philosophy.
Many United fans, who were exultant over the earlier wins of the club in domestic league and Champion League matches, have all of a sudden become highly critical of Mourinho’s predilection for defensive approach to games. These well-meaning critics find it puzzling that he sets up his team to play defensively against formidable opponents despite the fact that his current team boasts an embarrassment of attacking talents that should be able to hold their own against any opponent.
Although Manchester United are second on the league table, their fans are knowledgeable enough in the game of football to see that their team lacks the ruthlessness of their city rival, Manchester City; and what is also evident to Mourinho’s critics is fact that the team lopsided attention to the defensive aspect of the game won’t win the club any major trophy this term.
Why is Jose Mourinho at cross purposes with United fans four months into the new football season?
Manchester United have all of a sudden started experiencing a dip form in their league matches, as they now eight points behind league leader Manchester, who appear to be unstoppable as they continue to hand defeat after defeat to their opponents in all the competitions they are participating in.
So many factors have conspired to put United in the mini-crisis they have found themselves. Romelu Lukaku’s goals have dried up and United’s rivals like Chelsea and Tottenham breathing down their neck on the league table. The initial enthusiasm amongst fans that this year will be the club’s turn to win the league title has all of a sudden evaporated.
While it remains mathematically impossible for any club to win the league title in the month of November, there is nothing to suggest or inspire the hope that Manchester United will eventually overtake their so-called noisy neighbours on the league table any time soon.
Mourinho has attributed his side’s sudden loss of form to the absence of Paul Pogba. But that kind of excuse is untenable, considering the amount of money the club management has invested on players’ acquisition. A coach of his experience should have anticipated such unfavourable eventuality and accordingly he should have put an alternative plan in place to tackle the challenge when if it reared its ugly head. If indeed the absence of Pogba is the reason United have now resorted to an ultra-defensive approach that does not guarantee goals, it is part of Mourinho’s job to press another player into the service of a creative mid-fielder.
Time was once when Mourinho would choose to play draws against the few powerful teams in the league and then concentrate his efforts towards beating the other teams : and he would still win the play. The present reality in the Barclays Premier league does not make that approach a success-oriented one – instead of the top-four teams there are now probably top-six teams, with the financial might to employ world-class coaches and exceptionally talented players. Mourinho found that out last season when he had some many draws in the league, and this season Huddersfield Town have shown him that any team can beat another team in the Premier league.
Available statistics have shown that Mourinho has not won any away game against any top-six team since he became United’s manager. And these top-six teams have certain things in common that make their teams tough nuts crack for Mourinho – they have modern managers with innovative ideas football ideas, and there is a tendency amongst these managers to pay equal attention to the defensive and offensive aspects of the game. And the reason Mourinho does not always do well against these team is because their coaches have a better mastery of the act of offensive football than he does.
Mourinho love for defensive football is having a negative impact on his current team. The way he normally set up his side – no player, regardless of his position, is exempted from defensive duties. This ultra-defensive approach always saps strikers and mid-fielders of the energy that would have been better expended for offensive play. This approach is the reason it usually very difficult to score against a side under Mourinho tutelage. But the essence of football is about scoring goals.
Another reason United are struggling at present is that their approach to games are tactically simplistic, and most coaches know what to expect when they play against the Red Devil. The only way Mourinho set his team to plays attacking football is to make all his players to play to the strength of a central forward, who is tall and adept in aerial assault; in this formation, the other ten players are under the instruction to continually cross high balls towards the lone striker, who is usually positioned inside the opponent’s eighteen yard box.
Another problem besetting United is due to Mourinho’s refusal to deploy Marcus Rashford to the central forward position where Lukaku has become completely ineffective, because he lacks the skill-set and trickery to operate as a poly-functional modern striker.
Manchester United’s current struggles are , in part, due to their lack of creativity in the mid-field. Except for Pogba, United’s mid-fielders – Hector Herrera, Maroaune Fellaini, Michael Carrick, Nemanja Matic – are not players with flair. This cast of mid-fielders lacks the qualities to sustain a link-up play with their attackers when they play against teams parading mid-fielders with greater technical abilities.
With the way this football season is going, it is utterly inconceivable that Manchester United will win the league title with the defeatist tactics Mourinho employs in his games. Last season, United came sixth on the league table, and it was by all accounts a dismal performance. What mitigated United’s poor performance was the fact that Mourinho qualified them for the Champions League through the back-door of winning Europa league trophy. This season all eyes are on him and lame excuses from him would not be tenable should he not, at least, make the top-four position on the league table, or reach the Semi-final stage of the Champions league competition.
Finally, a careful look at how other managers are performing in the Premier league tend to suggest that Jose Mourinho is now out of touch with modern trends in football management.