When Jose Mourinho, a successful manager in various countries in Europe, was announced as the successor to Louis Van Gaal at United, high spirits were created at Old Trafford. A boss with three Premier League titles, three League Cup successes and an FA Cup on his record in England (in addition to Champions League medals with Porto and Inter) was seen as the perfect man to return United to their former glory days achieved under Sir Alex Ferguson. Fans called for the Portuguese gaffer to bring back their attacking style which made Old Trafford the fortress that it had been for many years. In a short way: bring United back!
Although a high proportion of fans saw Mourinho as the perfect fit, others were cautious of his antics which saw him overlooked for the manager role upon Sir Alex's retirement in 2013. Numerous fines and bans from the FA as a result of inappropriate touchline behaviour and comments about referees were seen as not the type of display of a Manchester United manager. But has Mourinho changed his ways for what we all knew was his 'dream job'? Well, so far this season he has shown his old self alongside a new brand associated with the ex-Madrid gaffer.
On the 29th October, Mourinho had been sent off at half-time of the game between United and Burnley at Old Trafford when he complained to referee Mark Clattenburg about his decision to deny the reds a penalty when Darmian appeared to have been clipped by Flanagan. Mourinho's punishment for his sending off was a touchline ban in the next Premier League fixture at Swansea. Almost a month later on the 27th November, Mourinho once more displayed an angry reaction to the referee's decision, on this occasion Jonathan Moss. The new United boss kicked a water bottle on the touchline which was spotted by the fourth official and meant that Jose was, again, sent to the stands. After the match, the FA acted by presenting Mourinho with another touchline ban alongside a fine. It adds to a list of punishments given to him by the FA from his last job at Chelsea.
Style of football had been an issue for Manchester United ever since Sir Alex Ferguson had left his post. Moyes and even more unsuccessfully Van Gaal couldn't produce anywhere near the football witnessed in previous years. The Dutchman's rigid philosophy caused the attack to generate a lack of goals and bore fans to sleep (literally, as shown by the Mirror). Mourinho wasn't renowned for his all out for goals style of play but didn't hold back his players in illustrating free flowing football. It was his ability to nick a 1-0 lead and kill off a game that saw him earn the tag of a 'defensive manager', but that hasn't been the case in Manchester. More often than not, his side hasn't been able to hold onto a 1-0 lead, conceding goals late to the likes of Arsenal and Everton when the game was in their hands. Even though United are falling back in the number of goals scored, the last month or two have shown United have seemingly clicked which has caused a team led by Ibrahimovic to excite the fans with more of the style of play they reminisced. If this can continue, it would see Mourinho abandon this unwanted label.
There are some elements of the old Mourinho which are needed to make United great again. His mentality of us against the world has won over the majority of fans and in my opinion, he will continue to inspire his players and fulfil the wishes of United fans worldwide.
Following the Community Shield victory over Leicester at Wembley Manchester United, led by new boss Jose Mourinho, were also victorious in their opening three fixtures in the Premier League. Optimism at Old Trafford was further enhanced then during the end of the summer transfer window when United was able to attract their former golden boy, Paul Pogba, back to Old Trafford after 4 years in Turin with Juventus of Italy. The reds broke the world record fee to bring in the 23-year-old back where he called 'home' per ManUtd.com, as well as the arrivals of Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan and Bailly. All this excitement was within the month of August, and it began Mourinho's reign in the best possible way. Along with the new manager, the new signings created an elated atmosphere at Old Trafford. Opposition fans feared United's comeback to the top of the league, which brought back the feelings of the good times. Then, the following two months, it completely changed.
For the first time in Mourinho's managerial career, the Portuguese were defeated in three consecutive games. These defeats, including to long-term rival Pep Guardiola at Old Trafford, drained the enthusiasm built at Old Trafford. United bounced back from their misery when they progressed in the EFL Cup after a 3-1 victory at Northampton, followed by an emphatic 4-1 win over Leicester at home. A run of wins, mixed with a tonne of frustrating draws, and sporadic defeats meant that the mood in Manchester felt reminiscent of the previous three years.
November began with yet another loss, on this occasion to the hands of Fenerbahce in Istanbul, Turkey. On the weekend after, the Reds met Swansea in Wales, hoping to create an upturn in form due to their ever-growing distance from the top four. When the team sheet was released, the sight of Jones and Rojo paired together in central defence was miserable, to say the least. Two individuals who were reckless at times and had failed to perform to the standard required at Old Trafford are partly the reason why United have gained ground on their rivals. The duo's unlikely partnership has worked wonders so far, conceding just 6 goals since their partnership was established to the end of 2016.
Now, further up the field, arguably the most important change in tactics was switching to a midfield three of Carrick (holding), Herrera (right) and Pogba (left). Carrick's regular inclusion in the starting eleven meant that the vice-captain of the club brought calmness to the play of Jones and Rojo, as well as freeing up Pogba's defensive duties and allowing him to roam around to become the threat we expect. He may be 35-years-old, but Carrick remains an essential figure in Mourinho's squad. Herrera also has been a trusted character, quietly providing assistance in defence and attack to a high standard.
Lastly, the set-up of Manchester United's attack has finally brought the style of football reds fans wished for. The inclusion of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, after a string of impressive performances in the Europa League and EFL Cup. certainly added a wow-factor to a previously bland attack. The Armenians swift movements, ability on the ball and spectacular goals (you know which goal we're talking about) have lifted the crowd off their seats and caused Mourinho to label him 'phenomenal', as reported by Daily Mail. Ibrahimovic's recent spectacular form has contributed to United 8 of United's 16 goals from the Swansea fixture to the end of the calendar year, and the main man has also registered three assists in this run.
Whether it's a set-up Mourinho had stumbled on or his man-management skills producing the desired effect, Manchester United's new boss has altered the feeling at Old Trafford meaning that fans can leave the Theatre of Dreams feeling something they haven't experienced enough in recent times.
Written for mufclatest.com
When Ibrahimovic, a striker renowned across Europe, chose Manchester United as his next destination, a few eyebrows were raised. The 35-year-old Swede had recently departed Paris Saint-Germain after hitting 154 goals in 179 games for the French side, as stated by the Telegraph, but this wasn’t enough for pundits to justify Mourinho’s summer signing. Ibrahimovic had conquered the beautiful game in top leagues such as Spain’s La Liga and Serie A of Italy, yet Zlatan was branded ‘over-age’ and ‘past it’.
Some even claimed that since he had just come off the back of four years in Paris in a league which, truthfully, isn’t part of the elite level, Ibrahimovic’s stature would be unable to cope with the intensity the Premier League brings. It’s fair to say that the self-proclaimed ‘God of Manchester’ (per Sky Sports) has shown how wrong they were. As we approached the finale of 2016 and the midpoint of the Premier League season, Zlatan further enhances his reputation as one of the world’s deadliest strikers.
The Swedish striker has 17 goals in all competitions at this point, including 12 in the Premier League, Ibrahimovic hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down. As a player who has never relied on pace, rather using his sheer strength to participate in play, Ibrahimovic is becoming arguably the most important player in Mourinho’s side. His goals for United contribute to 41% of their overall Premier League tally this campaign. If fit he is guaranteed to start and, bar a drought between September to November, it is probable he’ll score.
Zlatan has also served chances for his teammates, among the 30 chances he has created for his teammates, collecting three assists, according to Squawka. So, inevitably, Ibrahimovic’s instant impact at Manchester means that several supporters start mentioning him in the same breath as Eric Cantona, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Robin van Persie. But, can Zlatan achieve anything close to these Old Trafford greats?
Over the past couple of weeks, Ibrahimovic’s upturn in form means that pundits such as Charlie Nicholas of Sky Sports, have claimed that he is ‘just like Eric Cantona’, obtained from the Express. Indeed, the Swede’s arrogance (in a positive form) is similar to the manner shown by Cantona. For sure, Ibrahimovic has travelled to England too late in his career to come near the honours Cantona gained but, the former Barcelona striker can possibly write his own story at Old Trafford.
Ruud van Nistelrooy was a goal machine during his stay in Manchester. The legendary red recorded 150 goals in 219 games, which lists him as 11th in the club’s all-time goalscoring record, shown by ManUtd.com. Till recently, Van Nistelrooy was the club’s all-time top scorer in European competition and the prolific Dutchman had scored 36 goals in his debut season. With 17 goals midway through the season, there is no reason why Ibrahimovic cannot also hit a tally close to this.
In Sir Alex Ferguson’s eventual season as boss, Robin van Persie showed the form of his life to fire United to their 20th Premier League title. Van Persie was the last notable striker to guarantee a consistent run in the starting lineup. Since his departure, many have tried to settle in the role but have not been able to, like Zlatan has now. Clearly, having a striker who has established his place in the team has meant that Ibrahimovic has been capable of being the prolific attacker we tag him with.
Ibrahimovic’s steady start in English football has reduced Mourinho’s list of problems, meaning that the Portuguese gaffer can focus on other areas on the field to complement Zlatan. The 35-year-old may not stay for longer than two years but hopefully, his impact can prove to be the one which finally shows Manchester United the long forgotten light at the end of the tunnel.