After two wins on the bounce and confidence beginning to return, the Red Thoughts team reflect on José Mourinho’s management so far and ask, has he got it right?
RICK: Mourinho has got everyone playing great football and everyone putting in performances. He’s given players stick when they’ve deserved it and dropped players when they haven’t performed. I think Mourinho has made our opponents fear us again.
BETS: Even if I haven’t agreed with everything he’s done, I can always see the psychology or reasoning behind it. There have definitely been attitude problems and laziness, which he seems to be addressing. I think he’s thrown down the gauntlet to certain players and said, I’m the boss, you have two choices, you can sulk about what I’ve said and done or you can get out there on the pitch and prove me wrong.
What’s frightening (in a good way) about this side is you can see there’s so much more to come – when they’re all clicking and playing well, you look and think we’re the best team I’ve ever seen – no-one can touch us.
I absolutely do have faith that he is building something and it will take time for him to repair the damage that has been done by his predecessors. It’s wonderful to see guys like Rojo playing so well – I always thought he’s too reckless for CB and is better at LB. But maybe Mou is helping him to mature – if he can stay on his feet and keep his concentration he could be world class and solve that problem for us.
I think everyone can see how well Mou’s handled Mkhi and he must get credit for that. He’s also had the guts to drop Rooney and he’s got Darmian playing better and better. He’s got us playing swashbuckling football again, at least until we’re a goal up!
And that is one of the question marks that I still have over Mourinho. We defended brilliantly against Spurs but we were still conceding possession and defending deeper and deeper, drawing pressure onto ourselves instead of pushing on for a second to kill the game. The Rashford sub was more positive than previous games, but then Bailly for Mkhi was still very negative.
Second, there’s his love of Fellaini, it’s just plain wrong in my opinion that class acts like Schneidy and Schweini are being overlooked in his favour. If you want to close out a game with 10, 20 or 30 minutes to go, who in their right mind would bring on Fellaini rather than (a fit) Schweinsteiger? I don’t understand why Schneiderlin is being frozen out and Memphis and Fosu-Mensah should either be given more opportunities, or sent out on loan. Rashford is losing confidence and should be given 15-20 minutes up front wherever possible when Ibra’s legs are tired, rather than coming on for Martial on the wing. Rashy is not a winger. Mata is one of the best no.10’s in the world and needs to be playing in that role – especially in home games – with any two of Pogba/Herrera/Carrick behind him.
But back to the positives – you can see Mou is showing them who’s boss, and is creating a Mourinho type of team – physical, powerful, arrogant and passionate. So as I said I have every confidence it’s going to bring us success even though I’m not always going to agree with his methods.
JIM: I think Mourinho has done very well. He’s getting the best out of Jones, Rojo (who I’m amazed is actually capable of being a good player), Valencia and Mikhitaryan, we’re playing the most entertaining football we’ve played since Fergie and it looks like things are finally starting to click and fall into place. Sure, results haven’t been terrific and that’s partly down to his decisions, but the main reason for our results has been poor finishing, and that’s something Jose can’t be blamed for.
The one real negative has obviously been Fellaini and I have no idea what our managers keep seeing in him, but for me there are far more positives right now than negatives and I’m happy with the direction we’re going in.
FAB: Beating a team like Tottenham, who are well organized and disciplined at the back and really quick going forward was a nice feeling. Now we are closer to the top four in terms of points and our performances have been great for a while. Credit to Mourinho for changing things around.
Regarding Rojo, I am surprised how he has changed. I remember in the first UEL games I really was irritated with him because Schneiderlin and Herrera had to do his job on the left and from the other side, while Rojo was caught up the field attacking. As for Jones, I am really amazed how much he has improved in the past weeks. He has played well, he is consistent and more importantly Phil is not having fitness issues. My biggest concern however is the Martial issue. He needs to control the ball better and focus.
It’s strange that we aren’t managing to score more in our league games. United have created a lot of chances but failed to put them away and that’s an area where we need to improve.
CARL: I think it’s been a very promising start to Mourinho’s tenure. I think his management of Schweini, Fosu-Mensah & Rashford could have been better so far, but for everyone else it’s been just great. People should hold fire on the youth debate, because right now I think he’s in the process of stabilising things and hopefully when that’s achieved, youth will be given a few more opportunities (though I’d understand if people have their reservations in that regard).
A number of players – Herrera, Rooney, Jones, Rojo for example – are having a bit of a rebirth under Jose and the signings he’s made all look on track to becoming great ones. So there are promising signs even though our league standing is not a fair reflection of that right now, but the football is good and the future is bright. We’re a work in progress.
RICK: Performances have been very good and it seems Mourinho is definitely getting through to the squad what he wants from them. That is reflected by performances on the pitch; unfortunately some results didn’t go our way purely because we weren’t putting away more of the many chances we created. That is not down to Mourinho and we’ve been left trying to hang on to a 1-0 lead, which is not ideal. I think we just need to get the hang of killing off games, we’re outplaying the opposition but just not killing the game off.
As for Mourinho’s love affair with Fellaini, I don’t get it. He’s clearly not good enough to play for United, he continually costs us points, but Mourinho is still backing him. In regards to Fosu Mensah, I don’t see where he’s going to get games unless it’s when we’re leading by a decent margin – as you say, he’s in the process of stabilising.
CARL: Fosu-Mensah could have played RB in the Europa & EFL. He’s had opportunities to use him. There is no excuse for the fact he chose Young over him when he rested Valencia for the Zorya match.
BETS: I agree with Carl. Young needs games as well but he could be given game time on the wing. Mou likes big strong natural defenders so Timbo would be perfect.
I also think that whilst it’s true that our finishing has often let us down, I disagree with you Rick that you can’t blame Mourinho for our not killing off games – I think Mou has been mostly to blame. In one post-match presser (can’t remember which game) he said “I told them to keep the ball but they didn’t listen”. Telling them to keep the ball is negative – why wasn’t he telling them to push on for a second but keep your shape at the back? His substitutions have also been “lets keep what we have” rather than “lets look to kill the game with a counter attack” – with very few exceptions.
RICK: I disagree. Mourinho has deployed “keep what we have” tactics when there’s like 15 minutes left to go and we’ve squandered about 10 chances already. So it actually makes sense to try to keep what we have. That may seem negative, but if you’ve been trying all game to score a second and it’s not coming, then luck is not on your side and you consolidate, and if the opportunity presents itself you counter attack, but you don’t try to push for the second as it can leave you exposed.
CARL: I agree with you Rick, it’s only for the latter periods of games and I’m fine with us sitting on a lead for 10/15 minutes, particularly when we’ve been unlucky not to extend that lead. I believe our defence is good enough 9 times out of 10 to hold on to a single goal lead if that’s what we have. God knows we showed that under LVG in the previous couple of seasons, where we’d defend a one goal lead regularly. Plus it hasn’t been our defenders that have cost us these leads, it was Fellaini’s clumsiness against Everton and Rashford’s defensive naivety against Arsenal. However, both those were late substitutes by Mourinho. He’s got to take the blame for that even though I understand his logic behind both.
RICK: Exactly. If a team with the players and experience such as ours aren’t be able to defend a lead for the last 10-15 mins of a game then there is seriously something wrong.
BETS: But come on guys, we have seen again in the Palace game (a) it’s not the last 10 minutes, it’s from the moment we score, we sit back and go defensive. The world’s best defence is going to concede if we sit back too much and we aint got the world’s best defence! And (b) we have amazing players for a counter attacking game so why not use them rather than bringing on the likes of Fellaini (which would have happened against Palace if we were still one up after 60 minutes!)
CARL: That dropping back I can guarantee you was not advised by José.
RICK: As Carl said, the dropping off was not advised by Mourinho, the players started the second half very sloppily and thus we conceded. But after that you cannot accuse anyone of playing negative football.
HEMOR: I think José has been awesome so far. We can all see there’s a difference between the way we’re playing this season and the way we were playing last season, even though results have been unfair, all thanks to José. Signing Zlatan was a genius move, not just because he was free and he’ll score us goals but also to add leadership to the squad.
However, like Bets said, some players are still lazy. Mourinho has been successful all this while because he has had players who work hard for the team. That’s one thing I like about Lingard – he works his ass off, even though he’s not as talented as the likes of Martial, Memphis or even Rashford, he’s very hardworking.
José needs to get everybody working their ass off ASAP. We need to press harder too; our pressing is improving but it’s still not enough, against Palace if we had pressed harder instead of letting Palace come at us, we might have prevented that goal.