Mourinho's Time At United Should So Far Be Seen As A Success, Despite What The Press Tell Youby Harris Simpson / 11 January 2017, 16:25
At the start of December, a 1-1 draw away at Everton had seen the knives well and truly come out for Mourinho, pundits were all too quick to revel in the perceived demise of one of football’s greatest characters.
The Portuguese tactician had tags such as ‘outdated' and ’spent force’ thrown his way at will, but 9 consecutive wins later, his genius is once more being heralded, as journalists trip over themselves to praise United’s revival.
In many ways, Mourinho has become a victim of his own success, his persona will always court controversy, and his failings will always be jumped on by those he has belittled to get to the top. His relationship with the media has no doubt deteriorated since he first arrived on English shores, and his slow start at United was always going to be celebrated by an increasingly reactionary press.
It remains to be seen what response awaits Jose should United suffer a disappointing day against Liverpool, but if his career has shown us anything, it is that he is a man you should right off at your peril.
In the summer, the press had already proclaimed this Premier League campaign as one which would be dominated by a new influx of superstar managers. Stellar names such as Jurgen Klopp, and Maurico Pochettino, were to be joined by the likes of Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, as men portrayed as a new breed of manager, all with the capacity to revolutionise British football. But, Mourinho’s narrative was different, his story was that of a fading manager, joining a fading club, both just as desperate as each other to rekindle past glories.
The media have been quick to criticise Mourinho’s tenure, and other managers have no doubt received favourable coverage in contrast to their controversial colleague.
Already this season, three different teams have been trumpeted as champions elect, while Mourinho has been cast aside as a man running out of ideas. In September, Guardiola’s City were to be seen as an all conquering force capable of running away with the title, only for Klopp’s Liverpool to be given the same mantle one month later.
Now it is Conte’s Chelsea who dominate the opinion pieces, and while the Italian remains well placed to claim the title, this fluctuation in opinion is systematic of the fickle, premature nature of football journalism, and a continuation of the same narrative which saw Mourinho go from title winning darling to managerial flop, in the space of just seven short months.
Task In Hand
Of all the superstar managers, Mourinho arguably had the biggest task.
Taking over a team burdened with Europa League football, who had become accustomed to a staunchly rigid style, was never going to see United storm out of the blocks, and although a solid start did much to gloss over the short comings still residing from Louis Van Gaal’s tenure, United’s 10 game blip should have come as no surprise.
In fact, during this period United were subjected to lazy results based punditry, which gleefully ignored the context in which United were dropping points. Anyone watching could see that Mourinho’s team were a vast improvement on Van Gaal’s creatively stifled side, and that while results were not what they should be, signs of progress were undoubted.
Finally, United’s performances are wielding the results that they deserve, and six consecutive Premier League win’s has seen the gap between them and the top-4 drop to just three points.
United are starting to look like a side built in Mourinho’s image, and while qualification to the Champion’s League may have looked precarious at the start of December, United look as well placed as any to push for it in the New Year.
The title may be just beyond them this season, but if Mourinho can maintain the same levels of progression, United have a real chance to end this season on a high, and with their strong form in cup competitions, silverware cannot be ruled out for Mourinho this term.
Perhaps victory over Liverpool will see Mourinho once more wrestle back the prestige many were all too quick to take away from him.