Jose Mourinho is refusing to accept failure and a lack of plan at Manchester United

by Kaustubh Pandey

Jose Mourinho seems like a frustrated man. Rather, he sounds like one. With a side across the same city playing a style of football that has captured the attention of many across the globe and with his side under the cosh for not even remotely matching up to it, frustration is inevitable.

Recent results, not just the two 2-2 draws against Burnley and Leicester but the ones preceding it as well, have been enough to testify that while results have been fine enough, the means to their end have left the United faithfuls frustrated. And with the gap between United and City as much as 15 points at points this season, Jose has been left to complain about a lack of budget and the ability of City to outspend the others. It is obvious that every manager would seek reasons for being so far behind despite having so much himself, but Jose’s argument about a lack of budget seems bleak.

It wouldn’t be a crime to say that United look miles away from being a title-winning side and from being the way they should be, judging by how much they have spent since the time Jose has come in. Paul Pogba, who was and still is one of the best midfielders in the world, was roped in and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who was the highest assister in Europe in the 2015-16 campaign for Borussia Dortmund, was also brought in. United have spent a total of €350 million on transfers and have been the richest club in the world over the past two seasons.

Mourinho’s nemesis Pep Guardiola came in during the same season and it would be fair to say that the Catalan had the advantage of planning more only because his announcement as the City boss came some months before United’s confirmation for Mourinho back in the summer of 2016. Guardiola spent 213 million euros in the first season, bringing in the likes of Leroy Sane, John Stones, Ilkay Gundogan, Nolito and Claudio Bravo, with Gabriel Jesus joining in January.

Barring an injury-prone Gundogan and a Claudio Bravo who still hasn’t found his feet in England, no player had proved himself at the very top level. The season was a work in progress, about laying the foundation for what is currently transpiring. This past summer witnessed further strengthening, with a vast majority of it- rather annoyingly for Mourinho, in the full-back area. About €250 million were spent, taking Guardiola’s total to about €463 million.

Mourinho has been going on and on about how he needs more money to make his United side look more like a side that is capable of winning the title, but the players that he has signed were far established, recognised and acclaimed than the ones that City signed. More so, Guardiola has had to chop and change more to impose his possession-oriented style. The likes of David de Gea, Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia, Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial, Ander Herrera, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford were and still are important parts of the side. Whereas, only Nicolas Otamendi, Fernandinho, David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero are the only players in the City side who were regulars under Pellegrini and still are under Guardiola.

And the fact that Guardiola spent the required money to make City the force they are right now doesn’t just show that the money has been spent well, but also stands for how a specific philosophy has been drilled into the players’ head. It was a planned manner of making a club function. Guardiola wanted the money to go make a team that looked like his own and he got what he wanted. He has repaid the faith by transforming City into a near-invincible side. He needed the money and hasn’t wasted any bit of it, bar what was spent for Nolito and Bravo. Every major player that was signed is playing a vital role in making things click and fits somewhere into the wheel somewhere or the other. And the aftermath is clear- the massive 15 point gap.

Mourinho did sign fewer players than Guardiola and has spent more than a €100 million less than what Guardiola has, but the players that he has signed have been more prominent than those that City signed, especially during his first season. While Paul Pogba has been very good, he hasn’t exactly hit his top form consistently. Mkhitaryan has floundered a majority of times. Eric Bailly has struggled with injuries, Victor Lindelof has shown signs of settling in, Romelu Lukaku has been successful but has shown signs of inconsistencies. And Nemanja Matic, one has to say, has been Mourinho’s most successful signing. But what is clear is that Mourinho has failed to make this team look like his own. This doesn’t give the impression of the kind of sides that Mourinho has always boasted of, despite him having spent buckets of money. The aftermath is clear- the massive 15 point gap.

All that despite United being the richest club in the world. It is not as if the United board doesn’t trust Mourinho, it is about Mourinho signing only a host of players to fit them into his style. And while he has confidence in his ability of signing players and the ability to judge them on the basis of what style he wants to profess, but that hasn’t worked out.

A lot of United’s play these days seems too unorganised; a stark opposite to that of City’s. It is not too much of a problem if it is getting the desired results, especially with a manager like Mourinho who believes in pragmatism. But a lot of seems hopeful- thump the ball forward and hope that it lands on a superstar’s head. That isn’t how a side is supposed to play after spending €350 million. United don’t even come close to City.

Jose Mourinho can keep talking about City spending more money, but it as an excuse that is a mere cover up for his failures. The failures have also been covered up by winning the League Cup and the Europa League. But he hasn’t accepted the inability to play as well as what was expected in the Premier League, thus the excuses. What Guardiola has done in two seasons is far more than what Mourinho has done. His failure to accept that is making him cover it up with arguments that carry little backing. Its a bad way of deflecting the blame away from him to the board.

And remember, money is only one element of making a successful side. Ask Tottenham. Ask Leicester themselves.

This is not a way of saying that he is not the man to take United forward, but a way of putting forward that he has struggled to put his philosophy into place. And that tactical identity(or the lack of it) and certainty about how to go about things is making things look pessimistic around United. There is little assurance, too much jeopardy. An exact opposite to that of City.

He may be right in putting pressure on the Glazers, but Jose Mourinho hasn’t done his job well enough. Comparisons shouldn’t be made because of the parallels in which the clubs lied after Sir Alex Ferguson retired, but the status quo makes it inevitable.

The sides that both of them had inherited from Louis van Gaal and Manuel Pellegrini were similar, when it comes to how they much identified oneself with the styles that the managers preach.

You may also like