José Mourinho is used to winning silverware. At Porto, he started out with two league titles, a UEFA Cup and then an incredible Champions League in 2004, on the way to whichhis sidebeat Manchester Unitedin the round of 16.
Chelsea snapped up the Portuguese, and Mourinho was able to achieve similar levels of success at Stamford Bridge, winning the Premier League in 2005 and 2006, although repeatinghis Champions League success proved beyond him.
After leaving Chelsea in 2007 following reported disagreements with owner Roman Abramovich, José illustrated he was no flash in the pan by steering Internazionale to the Champions League for the first time in 45 years, while also adding two Serie A titles to his personal trophy cabinet.
However, Mourinho had a less successful time at Real Madrid, failing to win the tenth European Cup/Champions League title Los Blancos craved. A second stint with Chelsea started brightly, with Mourinho again winning the Premier League in 2015, but ended sourly with the majority of the dressing room falling out with Mourinho.
This brings us to the 2016-17 season, and José’s current travails. The 53-year-old is now the manager of Manchester United, hoping to resurrect the club’s fortunes after his predecessors, David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, were unable to maintain the success of Sir Alex Ferguson.
How has Mourinho done so far at Manchester United?
We know there are often ridiculous levels of expectation in football, especially in the Premier League, where every club is desperate to remain, many believe they can achieve a top-half finish and a large group think they canor expect to qualify for European football each season.
José Mourinho stated at the beginning of the campaign that he felt Manchester United should be challenging for the Premier League title this season. He didn’t say the Red Devils would finish top, but it’s clear he felt his team should be finishing no lower than fourth, thus ensuring a return to the Champions League.
At the time of writing, United are falling well short of this modest expectation. They have a modest return of 21 points from 14 games, putting them 13 points behind pace-setters Chelsea. It’s fair to say José probably isn’t amused to see his former club at the top of the table and disappearing into the distance.
Mourinho’s Manchester United aren’t winning enough matches and they’re not scoring enough goals. The recent match at Goodison Park, saw United take a fortunate 1-0 lead through Zlatan Ibrahimović, only for Everton to score a late equaliser, much in the same way Arsenal did at Old Trafford a few weeks previously.
Indeed, at the time of writing,Manchester United have drawn more games than they’ve won in the top flight this season, but Mourinho insists his team have been unlucky. Does he have a case here?
Are Manchester United out of luck right now?
"We are not getting the results we deserve," said Mourinho after that 1-1 draw with Everton. "We are getting draws, but deserving victory”.
Ultimately, football is a very simple game. Each team has to try and score more goals than the other, and when leading, the best sides will often close the game down in order to maintain that lead. The trademark of classic José Mourinho sidesis their ability to manage a game and maintain a leaduntil the final whistle.
Mourinho has always been a conservative manager, yet his Manchester United team has thrown away several leads already this season. Everton, Arsenal and Stoke City have all scored late goals against them- United’s speciality under Ferguson - and one of the reasons these have been so damaging is because United haven’t been able to score the decisive goal that kills a game off.
"Opposition are leaving the stadium super happy with points they don't deserve, and we are leaving the stadium with a feeling we deserved more,” said Mourinho.
It’s a tough argument to support. Whether he feels his side deserves more from each game is a moot point. The Red Devils have scored two or more goals in just four of their 14 top-flight games to date this season, a statistic that goes a long way towards explaining why they’ve not racked up the points that would see them challenging Chelsea at the top of the table.
A running tally of 19 goals in 14 matches is not enough when compared to 32 scored by Chelsea, the 33 notched by Arsenal and the 35 bagged by Liverpool. The latter’s defence has conceded 18 goals, yet theyare still nine points better off than Manchester United.
Why aren’t Manchester United scoring enough goals?
"When my teams are playing pragmatic football and winning matches and winning titles, you say that is not nice and not right," Mourinhohas said.
"Then my team play very well - and [that] is a huge change to the last two or three years [at Manchester United] - now you say what matters is to get the result no matter what”.
José is no stranger to conflict. He will regularly fall on his sword in press conferences and take journalists to task in a bid to protect his players. After the recent Everton match, there were plenty who needed protection, such as Marcos Rojo, whose two-footed lunge on Idrissa Gueye merited a straight red card, and Marouane Fellaini, whose clumsy challenge against his former club gifted the Toffees a late penalty.
Defensively, United could be a lot sharper; they miss Eric Bailly, who hasn’t played since sustaining an injury in his sides 4-0 hammering at Stamford Bridge. However, it’s the attacking element ofUnited’s play that requires closer scrutiny.
Zlatan Ibrahimović arrived at Old Trafford to massive fanfare, with Paul Pogba, arriving for a world record transfer fee from Juventus, another signing that had the football world purring. It wasn’t difficult to make a case for United doing well, with Mourinho having coveted the manager’s job at the club for a long time.
However, this United team is not scoring enough goals in the Premier League. Their goal at Everton came from a goalkeeping mistake rather than any creativity from a Manchester United player. They could only manage one goal at home to a West Ham United side who were trounced 5-1 by Arsenal the following weekend.
Against the Gunners, they dominated, but could only find the net once, while newly-promoted Burnley shut them out completely and landed a goalless draw at Old Trafford.
It’s all very well scoring four goals against Feyenoord and Fenerbahçe in the Europa League, but that’s only happened once in the Premier League this term, against the struggling champions Leicester City, who couldn’t deal with a wave of first-half United attacks, their defending from set pieces being particularly poor.
Ibrahimović has kept up his end of the bargain, scoring 12 goals in all competitions, but Anthony Martial, who made such an impact last season after his arrival in January, has only managed to find the net once in the Premier League, while Marcus Rashford has been in and out of the side despite making a similar impact to Martial last term.
Does Mourinho need more time at Manchester United?
"In this moment we have teams getting results that defend with 11, kick [the] ball and attack the space on the counter-attack. It is phenomenal, it's beautiful.You have to make a decision."
Mourinho seems to have been taking a pot shot at his former Chelsea side here, vexed as he’s very likely to be to see Antonio Conte inherit a squad he seemed unable to inspire or motivate last season and turn them into title contenders.
When the sides met at Stamford Bridge earlier this season, Chelsea handed Manchester United a hiding that started with a Chris Smalling mistake; the Blues never looked back as they triumphed 4-0, humiliating their former gaffer.
At the final whistle, Mourinho took umbrage with Conte for the way he celebrated the fourth goal with the Chelsea supporters, and it was clear the green-eyed monster had reared its head, the quote above being a pointed reference to the way his former club fashioned a win at Manchester City last weekend.
All is not well at Old Trafford under Mourinho, but the January transfer window is just around the corner, so perhaps the he will be able to make some changes to a squad who aren’t delivering for him at the moment.
During his most successful moments with Porto, Chelsea and Internazionale, Mourinho had trusted lieutenants on the pitch who would fight tooth and nail for their manager. Didier Drogba was so loyal to José that he threatened to resign from Chelsea after it emerged Mourinho had left the club in 2007.
Does Mourinho command that level of commitment from his United players? Wayne Rooney is very much all about Wayne Rooney as his career winds down, while Pogba is seemingly cut from similar cloth, and is perhaps weighed down by his price tag; how many games has the Frenchman really influenced in a red shirt so far?
However, it should be remembered that José hasn’t inherited a team of champions. If he’d directly succeed Ferguson, perhaps things would be different - Mourinho may have found it easier to maintain Sir Alex’s success, rather than start all over again
However, Moyes’ brief reign and the odd Van Gaal regime, which ultimately saw the team relying on rookiesMartial and Rashford for goals, have left the team, squad and even the club disjointed.
Has modern football overtaken Mourinho?
José Mourinho arrived in English football in 2004. The Premier League looked a lot different back then. Chelsea were newly-rich thanks to Abramovich, while Manchester United and Arsenal had battled it out for the title for much of the previous ten years
Clubs like Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur weren’t considered serious title challengers, and Mourinho inherited the foundations of Claudio Ranieri’s strong Chelsea side on which to build a team that won league titles with machine-like efficiency.
Twelve years later and things have changed immeasurably. While Arsène Wenger remains the manager at Arsenal, the club is slowly but surely re-emerging as a tile contender, while Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City all have successful, highly-regarded managers. Tottenham Hotspur are a force under Mauricio Pochettino, having challenged for the tile last season.
All this means Mourinho has to find a way of competing against new methods of coaching and ways of playing.It’s perhaps not enough for the Portuguese to rely on the steely mentality and defensive resolve of his most successful sides and look to take the lead then close the game down; even sides near the foot of the Premier League are now capable of giving the top sides a game on their day.
There are also signs Mourinho has become more negative as the years have worn on. Modern-day top-level football requires managers to massage the egos of the star players, put an arm around their shoulder on a daily basis and tell them how great they are, but Mourinho increasingly seems willing to criticise his players in public.
Mourinho built much of his legacy on the siege mentality he was able to create in his best sides, but the way he spectacularly lost the dressing room at Stamford Bridge the season after landing a Premier League title suggests his power could be waning, in that regard at least.
Qualifying for next season’s Champions League is absolutely vital for Manchester United if the club wants to attract more superstars like Pogba and Ibrahimović; others will only follow if they can play elite European football on a regular basis.
Perhaps the best chance Manchester United have of making next season’s Champions League is by winning this season’s Europa League, but whether Mourinho is prepared to take the competition seriously, even while his side remain outside the top four of the Premier League, remains to be seen.