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Why is José Mourinho’s midas touch no longer working?
Disappointing and shockingly, mediocre. Throughout his illustrious and magical managerial career, never has a side managed by José Mourinho been described by those two words until now. What was expected by some as a match made in heaven has turned out to be much more challenging than even the most extreme pessimist would have thought it to be. Yes, the way his Manchester United side play seems to be better than the horror days of David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal, but this is Mourinho we are talking about here. The most successful club manager of the 21st century would turn up at the major clubs in Europe and immediately work his genius to aplomb. However, why is this genius not having the same effect this time around?
Make no mistake, Manchester United is a completely different beast to any other club Mourinho has managed. Many of you will be thinking, “What about Real Madrid?” While Real Madrid are arguably even more successful than Manchester United, the historic nature of the club that resides at Old Trafford is unmatched. Only Barcelona and Bayern Munich may be able to relate to United in terms of stature and prestige. Not only is success demanded, but the style of play is pivotal to the fans’ satisfaction and happiness. In Mourinho’s career, the only thing expected from him was winning, which he delivered with astonishing consistency. But now, entertaining football is another variable he will have to try and control. The simple answer here is to say that Mourinho is failing at that, and the after effects of last season are still ringing. Is there a way in which Mourinho can deliver at Old Trafford? As funny as the number of draws that Manchester United are getting seems, there is something deeper to see here. The blueprint of Mourinho’s teams being hard to beat has been implanted, with his side only conceding 24 goals this season. This is compared to more than 30 last season, and northwards of 40 goals in the two seasons before that. The goals scored have significantly dried up, but that may come next season. Fans of the Red Devils will certainly hope that is the case.
Added to the overhanging shadow of the great Sir Alex Ferguson, Mourinho has been dealt a rebuilding job like no other. At clubs like Chelsea, Inter Milan and Madrid, he had to change the side but not to this extent. Having to rebuild confidence, a different style of play and also forgetting the failures of the past three years. Of course, these failures are relative to the global phenomenon that is Manchester United, but it is still a task that is not easy. Many pundits and journalists expected Mourinho just to be able to weave his magic wand at Carrington and suddenly, the underperforming players would become world superstars. Some of the champion players from the 2013 season are now long gone, and with them they took away the winning mentality. Mourinho’s job was now to get some of that mentality back. While he can do a lot of that himself with his charismatic character, he cannot be in the brain of every single player. That is why signings like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba have been so pivotal. Whether they have been successful this season or not is up to people’s opinions. Many people will say no due to the league position of Manchester United, but to take a “sad club” and turn them into a winning team takes time. Their impact, along with Mkhitaryan and Bailly, will surely show as time goes on.
Since becoming manager of Porto in 2003, Mourinho had known only one thing. Success is never too far away from my grasp. The way in which he travelled to countries across Europe and make his enigmatic presence so infectious made him arguably the marvel of the 21st century in football. However, with that success comes unreasonable expectations. Winning league titles in either one of the two first seasons at a club became second nature. Furthermore, in his managerial career, he has never finished below 3rd in the league. That will definitely change at the end of this season. While people will see this as a definite black mark against him, it cannot be understated that Mourinho is likely becoming a victim of his own success. While questions of whether Manchester United are too big for Mourinho are likely to be asked, beware of the wounded animal. These last two years will not have been enjoyable for Mourinho, but that will intensify the fire within his belly. All the criticism and laughter being thrown in Mourinho’s direction may all be premature. 2 years of failure cannot overshadow 15 years of brilliance. Mourinho will show the world again why he is one of the best in the business, if not the best.
As we gear up for another Manchester United and Chelsea showdown, all the hype is based around Chelsea’s attempt to strengthen their grip on a potential Premier League title. But, can Mourinho spoil the party like he so often has?