If there’s one thing you can never accuse Jose Mourinho of, it’s a lack of self-belief that crosses the line into arrogance. This is a man who ran down the touchline at Old Trafford after seeing his Porto side knock Manchester United out of the Champions League. A man who declared himself to be the ‘Special One’ after winning the tournament and who’s regularly reminded anyone who will listen about his achievements – while mocking other managers who refer to theirs. In Mourinho’s world he’s not only forever right, he’s also constantly victimised, denied the credit he deserves and treated unfairly by everyone from the media, fans of former clubs, fans of former clubs’ rivals, Greater Manchester Police and the FA.
In many cases Mourinho may have a point after all the FA’s decision to appeal against him not being punished for allegedly swearing after the Newcastle game, is beyond a joke plus cupping your ear to fans making obscene comments to you is hardly the most inflammatory response and the reaction to it was ludicrous.
One area where the United manager has divided opinion amongst the fans as to whether his complaining is justified is when it comes to transfers. Mourinho has been quick to make subversive digs at the board for what he perceives as a lack of investment, or at the very least fully backing him in the transfer market.
During the summer when the Reds’ boss wasn’t given the central defensive signing he obviously felt was needed to challenge Manchester City, he lamented:
“My CEO knows what I want and I still have a few days to wait and see what happens. The other clubs who compete with us are really strong and already have fantastic teams. Or they are investing massively like Liverpool, who are buying everything and everybody. If we don’t make our team better, it will be a difficult season for us.”
There’s a touch of the Cassandra’s about Mourinho, the Greek princess not the wife of Rodney Trotter, in that his prophecies are coming true but no one was heeding his warnings.
Now they have come true, many fans are actually blaming the manager for what he said would happen if United didn’t spend some more money than the £75.5 million forked out during the summer on Fred, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant. When you consider that two of those signings were brought as either back up or a more long-term option, then you can see the manager’s point.
The problem for Mourinho is two-fold, firstly he isn’t playing the one signing who was brought in to be used immediately and secondly he’s asking for signings to replace players he’s bought, or at the very least do the job they were brought in to do until they’re at a sufficient standard to do it themselves. It’s akin to taking an uber when you’ve just forked out for a brand new car, players such as Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof should be ready now for the first team, one could argue the latter is, so why do United need to sign a new centre back? The answer is simple, to replace what the manager inherited, not what he purchased.
For far too long United fans have been watching Chris Smalling and Phil Jones flatter to deceive in the heart of defence and while for me, the former Fulham man could still have a future at Old Trafford, there’s no denying the Reds lack a true leader at the back. Bailly and Lindelof together looked all at sea against Brighton, while Lindelof has been progressing, there’s growing rumours his Cameroonian colleague could be off in January.
It’s easy to blame Mourinho for Bailly’s issues after all – he bought him – but there’s signs that there’s a talented defender there who just needs a guiding partner alongside him – some of his best performances were next to Daley Blind who’s reading of the game was vastly underrated.
The Pep Guardiola comparison
Many critics point to Pep Guardiola as an example of why Mourinho is underperforming but that’s often ignoring the differences between what the two managers inherited, Pep had a squad containing Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany who had enough in the tank to help bring on the younger defenders. That’s five truly world class players, only one of whom was past their peak when Guardiola arrived.
Looking over at what Mourinho inherited, Wayne Rooney in his descendancy, Michael Carrick semi-retired, an inconsistent Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, still years away from their peak and David De Gea. I’d throw in Juan Mata as another top level player as I adore him but even I’ll admit he has far too many quiet days for a player of his talents.
Mourinho managed 81 points last season which whilst way behind City, was a commendable return and something to build on, unfortunately as the Champions broke their own transfer record and Liverpool went on a spending spree that would bankrupt a small nation, United have gone for half-measures. Yes, Mourinho should be giving Fred more of a chance and yes United should be beating the likes of Brighton, Wolves and West Ham, but blaming the manager instead of backing him in January could turn a difficult season into a disastrous one.