Mike Phelan: Manchester United are a new team under Jose Mourinho

by Leo Nieboer

Former Manchester United assistant coach and current caretaker manager of Hull City Mike Phelan has praised Jose Mourinho insisting the 53-year-old has improved the club since his arrival.

Phelan signed for Man United in 1989, and spent five years playing under Sir Alex Ferguson. He later took up the position of assistant manager in 2008.

Mourinho and Phelan will go up against each other this Saturday as United travel to the KC Stadium in pursuit of a fourth straight win.

Speaking prior to the game, Phelan admitted his former side has benefitted hugely from the influence of Mourinho.

“I must admit at one point I was concerned about what the future might hold for Manchester United over the last few years,” he said.

“But there seems to be a little bit more direction now and more of a settled atmosphere and that is showing. They have invested massively over a period of three years and at some point you would like to think they are going to get it right.

“We are talking about Manchester United and you always expect them to be there in amongst it. Expectations are huge and that will never go away. That is part of why you work there and why people want to work there because you want to be part of that expectation and have that drive to achieve.

“But there has been a dip in form and I have wondered what direction it is going in. Eventually though with the tradition and expectation you know it will come back around again.

“United as a club has looked at themselves and decided we have to start producing again. They have invested massively in the last three years and they have to start producing consistent results to back that up.

“It is early days but it is looking better.”

Mourinho’s arrival has signalled an almost immediate improvement in personnel. Four key areas (solidity at the back, creativity, goalscoring menace and energy in midfield) have been instantly addressed, and with a physical backbone of Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini, this United side suddenly has a formidable exterior.

But the real change hasn’t come through an improvement in physical presence. No, biggest chance has happened on a psychological level: this squad, freed from the shackles of Louis van Gaal‘s repressive system, believes again. With Mourinho at the helm, there exists a bloodthirsty desire for domination and a clear emphasis on playing with freedom and exuberance. Such an attitude, seen against both AFC Bournemouth and Southampton, precipitates a particular sense of swagger – a swagger Phelan grew accustomed to during his time at United alongside Sir Alex.

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