What to expect from Jose Mourinho at Manchester United
Jose Mourinho introduced himself to the world’s media as Manchester United manager in typically explosive style. The maverick came out fighting. Everything everyone expected.
From announcing how many signings United were planning to make, to Sir Alex Ferguson’s advice, to the substance behind Ryan Giggs’ departure, to digs at Arsene Wenger, Mourinho returned in a manner not seen at Old Trafford for years.
Starting the press conference, he described his job as one that everyone wants but not one which most get at chance to have. Legacy, history and tradition are three words synonymous with United, a club with a distinctive aura. Mourinho’s focused attitude, one which brought a certain lack of benevolence but one where hunger and desire were evident throughout, is welcoming for United fans.
So, what can we expect from Mourinho at Manchester United?
Quick effective transfers
Mourinho understands the situation the club is in. When David Moyes took over in 2014 the club finished seventh in the league table and signed Marouane Fellaini on deadline day, and when LVG finished fourth and then fifth the club needlessly chased about impossible transfer targets such as Neymar or Sergio Ramos. Both superstars used United to manufacture a new luxurious contract, an indicator of Ed Woodward’s previous incompetence.
Now the attitude has changed. Mourinho is not just a manager but a person who has a heavy contact book and someone who regularly talks to super-agents such as Jorge Mendes and Mino Raiola. Although most people wince when most TV money ends up in agent’s pockets the reality is you need to bridge a relationship with them.
Mourinho claimed: ‘We decided four targets. From these four we have three, and until we don’t have the fourth we are still working hard. Myself, the structure, Mr Woodward, the owners, we are working hard.
‘When we have the fourth we can all breathe, and then the market will be open. We are not going to get the fourth on August 31, we will get the fourth before then.’
The spine of the team needs addressing and four positions have been addressed. Mourinho jokingly said ‘has the third signing been confirmed yet?’ in anticipation of Henrikh Mhykitaryan’s transfer from Borussia Dortmund. But there is a deeper meaning. In the last three seasons, United’s transfer plan has become inefficient, but the arrivals of Eric Bailly from Villareal and Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Paris Saint-Germain imply a focus on a central nucleus.
The fact that Ibrahimovic is a central striker, Mkhitaryan primarily a central attacking midfielder and Bailly a centre back emphasises that Mourinho understands the need to strengthen in areas where United lack balance and stability.
The fourth signing that Mourinho mentioned in his press conference is undoubtedly a central midfielder who is likely Paul Pogba. The Frenchman is believed to cost £75m with the potential for a deal to increase to £90m if certain goalscoring achievements and major team and individual awards follow. Juventus are keen to hold onto the player but the financial power of United may force the issue. Pogba would prefer the Meditteranean lifestyle of Real Madrid but no doubt would see playing under Mourinho a life achievement.
If not Pogba then Blaise Matuidi is another very good option. Both French internationals would offer pace, dynamism, stability and power to a creaking United midfield. PSG are willing to sell at the right price, one which may rise to £30m if reports from France are believed to be accurate.
Winning is the philosophy
Mourinho despises the concept of a possession-based philosophy, a word so synonymous with his predecessor Louis Van Gaal.
‘I was never very good at hiding behind words and philosophies. I never tried to be good on that. I was always much more aggressive in my approach, with the risks that brings.’
The Portuguese manager sees success simply as scoring more goals and conceding fewer goals than the opponent regardless of the philosophy that the team takes. This is why Mourinho’s counter-attacking Real Madrid side won La Liga in 2012 scoring 121 goals while his narrow Chelsea side only conceded 15 goals when winning the Premier League in 2005 . Essentially Mourinho’s philosophy is winning.
Ryan Giggs is welcome back
Mourinho was magnanimous in regards to Ryan Giggs’ departure from the club.
Speaking at his press conference Mourinho said of Giggs: ‘He was honest so good luck to him. If he wants to come back when I’m here, I always say yes.’
Giggs’ aim to venture into management was the main reason why he left United after 29 years at the club. The Welshman was offered a role as the individual to help bridge the first and youth team but rejected it. According to Mourinho, Giggs was vying for the job as manager of United but when he didn’t receive an offer his options were pretty much out at the club.
Youth supply line should flow well
No doubt the most hair-raising moment of the media engagement was Mourinho’s defence over his youth policy.
Mourinho claimed: ‘I have promoted 49 players from youth academies, you want to know who they are?! I can give you this list, 49 players.
‘Sometimes you promote players because you have injuries that there isn’t a choice, you have to bring up the academy players.
‘When you are not playing for big trophies it is easier to bring them up. My record for injuries is very very low.
‘I never promote players because of a need but because of a conviction. Last year was the only season that I was fighting for the title.
‘I promoted 49 players always under pressure. Some of them are big names, today they are CL winners or in the Euros.
Although it is true that Mourinho has given a significant number of youth players their debut, there are very few of them who actually went on to play a significant role in the first team.
Carlos Alberto, Jese, Nacho, Alvaro Morata, Denis Cheryshev, Casemiro, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Kurt Zouma established themselves but the likes of Anthony Grant, Steven Watt, Jimmy Smith, Michael Woods, Ben Sahar, Sam Hutchinson and Lenny Pidgeley clearly didn’t.
There are very promising talents within the United youth set up like Andreas Pereira, Axel Tuanzebe, Regan Poole, Callum Gribbin, Joe Rothwell and Ben Pearson. If they can continue their exceptional progress then first team experience will follow.
Arsene Wenger digs will continue
It took Mourinho just five minutes to indirectly have a dig on Arsene Wenger when asked about his success at Chelsea last season.
‘There are some managers who last won the title 10 years ago’ Mourinho calmly stated. After the famous remark of ‘specialist in failure’ last year, it would not be surprising to see United’s new manager take sly digs at Wenger to deflect questions in the near future.
Wayne Rooney will not be used as a deep-lying midfielder
Perhaps the biggest insight into Mourinho’s press conference was his thoughts on the future position of Wayne Rooney.
‘Maybe he is not a striker anymore but he will never be a number six, never somebody playing 50 metres away from the goal. You can tell me his pass is amazing but my pass is amazing without any pressure. he will be a nine, nine and a half or a ten.’
With the likelihood of United operating a 4-2-3-1 formation this season Rooney will play behind Ibrahimovic, linking up the play with the two CDMs and Martial and Mkhitaryan. Exciting times for United fans.
No UEFA Champions League an embarrassment
Understandably Mourinho was not best pleased when describing United’s prospects in the Europa League given it is a competition he has only experienced twice as manager. His first taste of the competition came in 2000 when he took over from Jupp Heynckes as Benfica manager, but couldn’t prevent an aggregate defeat to lowly Halmstad.
The second spell in European’s second tier competition came in 2003 when he guided Porto to glory. A first-round aggregate victory over Polonia Warszawa preceded wins over Austria Wien, Lens, Denizlispor, Panathinaikos and, in the semi-finals, Lazio. Martin O’Neill’s Celtic was the opposition in the final in Seville but they to were beaten by Mourinho’s Porto side, 3-2 after extra time. So while Mourinho sees the competition as inferior in relation to the club size of Manchester United, he has the squad depth to take it seriously. The hope for him is that the travelling is not too degrading to his team’s stamina.
Manchester United’s aura is respected
Predictably, Mourinho said that ‘I am the manager of the biggest club in the UK. I am going to focus on our job and our club. There are very few words to describe a club like this’.
He has studied United for decades and looking at how the club achieved continued success will be vital. Given his win record against Liverpool is 72%, Manchester City around 54% and Arsenal 45% (unbeaten) you can almost guarantee that United’s aura will be enhanced on the pitch.
Overall verdict 8/10
Manchester United will play 4-2-3-1
Transfers will occur quickly
SAF advice is much appreciated
Ryan Giggs is welcome to come back to the club after external experience
Four transfer priorities, three of which United have already got. Expect fourth to be Pogba/Matuidi
Europa League is important but an embarrassment
Managerial rivalries will continue but won’t be as feisty as in La Liga