MAN CITY 2 MAN UNITED 3: Will Mourinho win the League at Old Trafford?
April 09, 2018
In the sport of boxing, there’s an old adage which states that “someone’s ‘0’ has got to go” when two unbeaten fighters face off. A similar saying could have been used to describe the head-to-head battle between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola at the beginning of the season, with both managers having never previously failed to win a league title during their second year at a club.
Nearly eight months on, however, it’s clear that the Portuguese has lost his ‘0’, with Pep’s Manchester City 16 points clear at the top of the table and just one win away from claiming the EPL title with something to spare. In fact, the Blues can secure the title by winning at home against United this weekend, which would represent a peak in a record-breaking season.
Given this and the ongoing questions about Mourinho’s playing style, it’s reasonable to ask whether the Portuguese will remain in the EPL or manage to win a league title during his Old Trafford tenure. Here are the thoughts of the team at the BetHut.
The Wrong Man at the Right Time – Mourinho’s Tenure so Far
When Mourinho was appointed as the manager of Manchester United in 2016, there was a suggestion that the club had signed the wrong man at the right time. After all, the pragmatic Portuguese was never going to recreate the type of attacking football with which the club was synonymous, while his abrasive and controversial management style always had the potential to tarnish the clubs global image.
Despite this, United were in desperate need of a serial winner, and a man with the ability to reclaim the Reds’ status as a top-four side while regularly challenging for honours. Mourinho certainly fitted this bill, while it’s fair to say that the former Chelsea boss deploys a more appealing playing style than the turgid fare that had been previously served up by David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal.
In short, the qualities of Mourinho encouraged United’s board to overlook his obvious weaknesses and supposed unsuitability for the role, an approach that has delivered mixed results so far.
On a positive note, United have markedly improved since Mourinho’s appointment, with the side having developed a more attractive playing style thanks to the procurement of better players. The Portuguese also built on the 2015 FA Cup win by delivering two trophies in his maiden season, including the League Cup and an historic Europa League triumph (which helped United to return to the Champions League).
The club have also enjoyed a solid league campaign this season, with a firm grip on second place and a points tally that is just one shy of last years’ return with seven games remaining. United also made the knockout stages of the Champions League since 2014, and they have an FA Cup semi-final against Spurs to look forward to next month.
So far, so good, but it’s fair to say that United’s fans have enjoyed a love-hate relationship with Mourinho. The second round, UCL knockout to Sevilla saw the Portuguese endure genuine abuse from the sidelines, after the Reds produced timid displays both home and away and ultimately succumbed to late goals at Old Trafford.
Mourinho’s subsequent rant about “football heritage” did him no favours at all, particularly as it sought to defend his own record rather than tackle the fans’ concerns. At the heart of this issue is Mourinho’s innate caution, which has become increasingly evident as the Portuguese has seen his lustre fade over the course of the last eight years or so.
The fact that Mourinho’s United are often unwilling to display attacking intent in big games both home and away is exacerbated by the club’s net spend, as the board have backed the Portuguese heavily and far more consistently than they did Moyes and Van Gaal. Over the last five years, United have the second-highest net spend of all EPL clubs, investing a total of £437,250,000 during this time.
Despite this, the Reds’ manager is failing to get the best out of attacking talents such as Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez, while Mourinho continues to bemoan a lack of resources and refuses to take responsibility for his own failings.
This, coupled with Mourinho’s questionable man-management strategies, raised doubts about whether or not the Portuguese has buck his own personal history and remain at Old Trafford for the foreseeable future. There is certainly a suggestion that his tactical and personal approach is stifling the club’s players, and this will make his position increasingly untenable over time.
Next Season and Beyond – Can Jose Deliver the Title at OT?
There’s no immediate suggestion that Mourinho will be let go this summer, particularly if United hold on to second place and win the FA Cup. The board have also suggested that they’ll back the Portuguese further this summer, as Mourinho looks to take another tilt at toppling Manchester City and his nemesis Pep Guardiola.
While this means that Mourinho is likely to complete his mandatory three years at OT, his long-term future remains unclear despite signing a new deal through until 2020. Even if the Reds continue to improve in terms of their league performance, this may not be enough to bridge the gap that has been opened up by Manchester City this season.
Similarly, fans are also becoming increasingly frustrated at United’s occasional lack of urgency and unwillingness to engage big sides, particularly with neighbours City and Liverpool playing such stunning attacking football in the North West.
The directors must also want assurance that Mourinho can maintain a content and United playing squad, while also accounting for high profile and high-value performers such as Sanchez and the enigmatic Pogba.
If these issues remain and City cannot be reined in next season, Mourinho could well find his tenure coming to an abrupt end at the end of next season. From the perspective of the Portuguese, he must find a way of uniting his squad and creating a defensive unit that he truly believes in, as this will enable him to unleash the attacking resources at his disposal and potentially create a more eye-catching playing style.