Dance with the devil: What Manchester United under Jose Mourinho might be like
In the end it all played out on expected lines. Manchester United's owners and board ran out of patience for Louis van Gaal's famed philosophy even before the Dutchman completed two of the three years he was promised on paper. The men that matter ruled in favour of performance over process, especially considering the club's muddled on-field display in the last couple of years.
Despite profits pouring in courtesy savvy commercial tie ups, dazzling display on the hallowed Old Trafford pitch is what the fans truly craved for during the 64-year-old's two-year spell. With him gone, the red half of Manchester now has to embrace the man it once considered a bitter enemy. With the iconic club at a delicate juncture, another appointment error could be devastating.
Just like his predecessor, Jose Mourinho arrives at Manchester United with a glittering resume having conquered every hotbed of European football. In the minds of many, the Portuguese manager believed he was the rightful successor to Sir Alex Ferguson's throne. Perhaps for the first time in his managerial career, Mourinho didn't land the gig he thought truly belonged to him. At the time, United opted for David Moyes instead of the charismatic and controversial Mourinho. Fans and Ferguson himself admired the 53-year-old's capacity, but there was an overwhelming sentiment about him not being Manchester United material.
The football world is divided over what to make of United's latest recruit. Such is the nature of the man that there is no middle ground when it comes to Mourinho. Here is what life under Jose could be like at Old Trafford.
Rekindling of an old rivalry
The Manchester Derby will no longer be just a battle between two high-profile city clubs but an international affair considering the dubious history of Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. Not that this fixture wasn't among the most important on the annual football character, but the sheer stature of the managerial heavyweights will boost the scrutiny and interest around it. After enthralling the Spanish fans with their often ill-tempered rivalry, the duo will now battle for bragging rights in football-mad Manchester. While Guardiola dominated majority of their duels thanks to his supremely gifted Barcelona side, their tête-à-tête in England isn't expected to be as one-sided. With a point to prove and armed with a multi-million dollar war-chest, Jose will be itching for a fight with his long-time adversary.
Parking the bus tactics
One of the charges against Van Gaal by United fans was his introduction of a 'boring' style of play. Accustomed to flair and flamboyance up front under Fergie, the Dutchman's different model of operation found no takers at the club. Though United retained solidity at the back, the fault lines of their failed Premier League and UEFA Champions League campaigns were rooted in the forwards' inability to find the back of the net consistently. Like Van Gaal, Mourinho too loves to build his team from back to front. From Porto to Chelsea, all Mourinho teams have an unmistakable defensive flavor about them. Working towards fixing his new team's frailties in the attacking department will be the first task Jose undertakes. He will help the club score more goals, but not as many as the fans expect from their team.
Acquisitions and departures
Every influential manager leaves a stamp on the squad under him. Jose's approach will be no different at United. Ed Woodward will be active and extremely busy during the British summer transfer window, much like he was an year ago. As Mourinho reshapes the squad, question marks will arise against the future of several stars at the club. First among those will be Juan Mata, who was sold to United from Chelsea by Jose himself. Memphis Depay, Marcos Rojo and Adnan Januzaj too could be offloaded. With an alleged £200 million budget, the Portuguese is being tipped to secure the services of two of his former players in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gonzalo Higuain. Having failed to lure John Stones to Stamford Bridge, Jose would be aiming to clinch the deal with the England defender this time around.
Youth academy may suffer
The only area of concern with Mourinho's style of functioning, apart from his questionable temperament, remains his ability to deal with young products. Nurturing academy players, a trait considered essential to be a United manager, appears to be missing in Mourinho. His penchant for instant success positions him uniquely. He likes working with finished articles, rarely devoting time to bring players through. Fortunately for Mourinho, his sacked predecessor has already identified some members of United's next generation. Jose though has the tricky task of successfully integrating the likes of Marcus Rashford to his system during the course of the next three years. Irrespective of the outcome, this aspect of his management will be keenly focused on.
Critics of the Mourinho phenomenon also point towards his approach at club management. What motivates the man is hard to tell, but the challenge of conquering new frontiers forms the basis of his moves. Jose has evolved into a managerial journeyman, tasting success at every destination. There is an air of inevitability about Jose adding silverware to the cabinet of the club he takes charge of. Jose guarantees success. But that success, as evidence suggests, comes at a price. Jose failed to pass on the baton seamlessly to his successors in his twin Chelsea tenures. United's risky coup could mean Mourinho will deliver what he promised but in the process alter the character of the club forever.
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