Jose Mourinho has explained why he had to dramatically move away from Louis van Gaal‘s managerial methods upon his arrival at Manchester United over the summer, noting that supporters were unhappy with the way their side was playing.
The Dutchman was relieved of his duties at Man United in the aftermath of claiming the FA Cup following a season hallmarked by a turgid, unattractive style of football.
And Mourinho, ever since arriving back in June, has restored a sense of dynamism going forward at Old Trafford and finds himself eight points better off than his predecessor at this stage of the season.
The 54-year-old, speaking to France Football, was quick to note the importance of shifting his squad away from the dogma imposed by van Gaal.
“All the stages of the process are important. The first was to put the fans in harmony with the team, which was not the case in the last two years,” he said.
“They were not happy with the way in which the team was playing, the approach, the style of play, and they would leave the stadium ten minutes before the end. They needed to come back in our direction. It was difficult, because we had to coincide the team’s style with results.
“Even when we had our four match run of draws at home, that was the case. Against Burnley, we beat the record for the amount of shots in a Premier League match (37). That means that we were restoring the attacking style of Manchester United. What the fans wanted to have.
“However, that was not necessarily what people were expecting from me, because people say that my teams are more pragmatic, realistic…
“At the moment, I see a lot of defensive teams, but who win matches without being boring. But that is not the problem. What I am trying to say is when I arrived at Manchester United, I knew that I needed to go in certain direction, and that is what I did.
“To be attacking, to be dominant, to have the ball, chances, to not be fearful of conceding goals, to bring intensity, not to play with five defenders, or two attacking midfielders… to at least try to play positively.
“The priority is to establish relationships founded on peace and love in the squad, to create stability.”
Van Gaal, following a promising opening campaign, embarked on his second season at Old Trafford with a vision that, in just nine months, had stripped United of any iota of identity. Nobody could express themselves outside the crippling confines of his beleaguering, impossible-to-understand system going forward, and by the end it felt as if the squad had received a lobotomy: no expression, no individualism, no joy – just a complete and utter subordination to the ‘process’, which somehow hadn’t concluded after two years.
Not the best environment to enter, then, for a man looking to reimpose a sense of identity following a galling few months at Chelsea. But nobody can doubt that, as the season has progressed, United – buoyed by Mourinho’s emphasis on winning with style – have begun to stir once more.