Can Jose Mourinho turn the tide to create a Manchester United-shaped miracle?
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The great Sir Alex Ferguson always possessed the mantra of ‘winning the press conference’. He would routinely run his face through water over the sink before embarking on his weekly duties in the press room to much aplomb.
With the self-proclaimed Special One, however, it doesn’t feel very special. The current Manchester United manager has spent the majority of their pre-season tour of the United States complaining over his current squad of players.
Sure, the World Cup happened. It was a thing. Jose Mourinho knows the repercussions of a summer tournament, so why cry about it?
This constant complaining from the Portuguese boss has got on the back of a large proportion of United fans worldwide, leading to bookmakers making him the favourite Premier League manager to first get the sack!
But just to play devil’s advocate, what if all of this is just tactics?
Jose is known for building smokescreens and diversions to take the swathes of media attention away from his players. He is also known for manipulating his time with the media to send messages to either the players or Ed Woodward and the people above him in the Old Trafford hierarchy.
Mourinho has a right to be frustrated over the lack of transfer activity. His public admiration of Inter Milan winger and World Cup finalist Ivan Perisic has led to… nothing.
The long-standing interest in Tottenham Hotspur defender Toby Alderweireld has dragged on now for three months. Has he signed for Manchester United, nope. All in the name of Ed Woodward trying to save £2 million here, £3 million there. Is this acceptable behaviour for the second biggest sports franchise on the PLANET? Have a laugh.
Mourinho also has the challenge of having to find buying clubs for the deadwood squad players that he hasn’t fancied using since his arrival two years ago. Why is that a challenge, I hear you ask? Because of the high wages that players such as Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are on, it's difficult for lower league clubs to be tempted by players on such high wages.
This summer in particular, the need to send constant reminders to his board is most prevalent. With the investments made by the teams around them such as Liverpool & Manchester City and the likes of Arsenal & Chelsea reinventing themselves under new managers, the need to spend has never been so important for Manchester United.
The constant push to sign Alderweireld has been rumoured since the end of last season, but here we are, still no movement. Not even a wobble.
Why? This is a brilliant opportunity for the Red Devils to sign one of the best defenders in the Premier League (who only has 12 months left on his contract at Spurs) in order to massively improve their options at the back.
It could push Mourinho to implement the 3-5-2 system he has wanted to build at the Theatre of Dreams since his arrival in the summer of 2016. One of the Special One’s renowned features is the ability to build a solid defence.However, with the defensive options on offer at the minute, he has instead decided to push his midfield units back to further protect a quivering back four.
No wonder Paul Pogba hasn’t been able to play to his strengths, when he has to protect Phil Jones on the regular.
The signing of the Belgian centre-back could allow Jose to explore a three at the back system, with Alderweireld at the centre surrounded by Ivorian stalwart Eric Bailly and Swedish international Victor Lindelof (the only defenders Jose Mourinho seems keen on using might I add).
Transitioning to a 3-5-2 would also allow two of United’s best players in Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez to play in their more natural styles and positions. With more trust being placed in a defensive unit of Alderweireld, Bailly & Lindelof, it would allow the midfield to play 10 to 20 yards further up the pitch, with Pogba to push forward and play his natural game.
Playing two strikers up front for Manchester United could also eke the best out of Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez. Since joining from Arsenal this January, Sanchez hasn’t looked at the races, looking like a player who has been slotted into an already-functioning team, needing the time to adjust. With pre-season over, the Chilean looks ready to fire and play a supporting role just behind Romelu Lukaku.
Another shining light in an otherwise drab and dark tour of the States is Brazilian midfielder Andreas Pereira. Having made a handful of appearances for the Red Devils in the past three years, successive loan moves to Granada and Valencia seems to have matured Pereira into a midfielder ready to play in the Premier League.
Mourinho’s left-field choice of playing the Brazilian in a holding role looks to have paid dividends, with the midfielder likely to start matches due to the absence of Nemanja Matic.
As for the future of Manchester United, what are the real, logical alternatives for Ed Woodward to consider should Jose Mourinho not be there this time next season? Constant rumours of Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino have been circling around the media ever since the Louis van Gaal era.
What happens in the present, though, remains to be seen. Jose Mourinho may (in his own mind at least) be ‘winning the press conference’, but will he win something which actually matters to the millions of United fans around the globe?
Only time (and about another £100 million) will tell.
Image Credit - Wikipedia Commons. Twitter.
Top Image shows Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho. Image above shows new Manchester United Fred.