In light of the season that has passed, an undercurrent of murmurs and rumblings within the United fanbase have emerged. It is a completely logical feeling when your city rivals have just marched away with what many of us regard as our trophy, without even breaking a sweat. Even the most ardent Mourinho supporter will accept that this season as a whole was not spectacular, and we expect better. That feeling of entitlement whilst perhaps unearned in the context of the last five years, is in itself a sign of progress. The question with Jose has always been if we are willing to accept that we might not always get what we want, but the question for us is if we are willing to be patient enough to eventually get what we need.
In many ways Mourinho’s tenure at United reflects that Rolling Stones song, each verse capturing an initial feeling of optimism, followed by eventual disenchantment. The optimism of what many called “4-0 FC” at the start of the season, has morphed into the disillusion that Mourinho teams are not attacking teams. But just as the song continues, Mourinho’s track record has shown that while you might not get what you want, at some point you will find that you get what you need.
So what do Manchester United need? And has Jose Mourinho made real steps, beyond the obvious to make them happen? The obvious that I have alluded to is the statistical improvement. Jose has undoubtedly improved us in this context, even his strongest detractors cannot deny that, but that shouldn’t be the only standard upon which he’s judged. Other aspects such as revamping the squad; adhering to and maintaining the traditions of the club; and providing us with long term stability after a rocky post Sir Alex period are far more important. It is argued here that only with those needs met can Manchester United truly once again become the club that most of us recognise.
‘Revamping the squad’
“We don’t play the Manchester United way!” That is the biggest criticism.
The United way as far back as I can remember it had elements of power, pace and unpredictability based on a foundation of a solid defence and utilising the wings. Jose has shown with both Real Madrid and Chelsea he can implement this style, but he also needs a squad that is able to execute it. I find it astounding that the same people who have criticised Jose the most throughout the season are the same people demanding a new left back, a new right back, a new centre back, a new midfielder, and a new right winger! Well which is it lads, do we have a sh*t manager or a sh*t squad? I find that logic to be rather strange, but fans will be fans I guess. For what it’s worth I think the squad Jose found was one of the worst in my lifetime (i.e. since the late 80s). Offloading players like Schneiderlin, Depay, Schweinsteiger, and Rooney whilst bringing in players like Pogba and Zlatan was a signal of intent. We are likely to see more of that with the likes of Darmian, Shaw and Blind being ushered out, and a new exciting crop of talented players coming in. One thing Jose can never be criticised of is his ruthlessness in the transfer market.
‘Adhering to and maintaining the traditions of the club and providing us with long term stability’
Manchester United’s traditions have always been based on youth and developing players. “Mourinho signing Sanchez and wanting Willian, Alderweireld (all 30 next season) tells you everything you need to know about his plans.” This is one amongst many hot takes sports journalists have had this year, seemingly at odds with our traditions. Except it’s utter b*llocks. The idea that Jose isn’t interested in using or developing younger players is preposterous when you see the effort he has put into Rashford and McTominay, his disappointment that Andreas Pereira didn’t stay to fight for a place, and his confidence inducing public praise of Tuanzebe and Angel Gomes. What is even more absurd is indicating his transfer policy is somehow constructed to give him a chance of success at the expense of our long term future. Players he has brought in that we currently have on the books include Pogba (25), Lukaku (25), Lindelof (23), Bailly (24), what a crop of old codgers. Needless to say they were all even younger when they were signed, because that’s how time and aging works. A deeper look at who we have been linked with this summer – Dalot (19), Fred (25), Milinkovic-Savic (23), Alex Sandro (27) – indicates a clear transfer policy in line with Sir Alex’s. Young, talented players approaching or at their peak, able to carry the club forward into a new era.
In my mind, Jose will undoubtedly continue to address our needs, and the optimistic amongst us will feel that a more attacking style and the winning of major silverware will follow… for years to come.