Manchester United has been bombarded with negativity from the press, media and fans with negativity over the past week. The progress of other sides in the Premier League, combined with results that do not reflect performances, have impacted how the fans view Jose Mourinho’s tenure at the club. This negative perception prohibits people from seeing just how much United has improved in so many ways, and Sunday’s match against West Ham showed exactly that.
Last time United played West Ham, at Upton Park, the Red Devils bid farewell to all hopes of playing Champions League football this season with a 3-2 loss under Louis van Gaal. That being said, the lineup contrast, football contrast and managerial contrast show just how far the side has become, and prove that Mourinho’s time at United has indeed been a success so far.
Manchester United’s lineup consisted of six players who were included in both lineups- David de Gea, Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford. In three of those five players, there have been significant developments under Mourinho. Strengthening the right-wing duo of Antonio Valencia and Juan Mata, the two have been arguably Manchester United’s two best players this season. Valencia is benefitting from the individual defensive coaching of Mourinho, looking better defensively in a more attacking system, and the exact same can be said for Juan Mata, who is one of the hardest working players in the side. Ander Herrera has undergone incredible technical, physical and psychological development since being ripped apart in that match, and Marcos Rojo’s conversion to centre-back has made him a far better player.
Replacing Daley Blind and Chris Smalling at the back were Phil Jones and Matteo Darmian, and while the latter two look far worse, United conceded two less goals. Morgan Schneiderlin, Wayne Rooney, and Anthony Martial have incredibly been replaced by Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. While Lingard is significantly worse than Martial, and Mourinho made a selection error, the ability of players like Pogba and Ibrahimovic was reflected in the first goal. Removing Wayne Rooney alone is a massive source of development for United.
The stark contrast in statistics of either match shows the control United had throughout the game. In United’s performance at Upton Park, the Red Devils were outshot 20-3, and on Sunday, United took 17 shots to 6 from the opponents. Possessing 68% of the ball in comparison to 54% last time out, United’s ratio of possession to shots was a lot better. In addition, there were some very good performances, including Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera, and Juan Mata, whereas last time, Anthony Martial’s two-goal performance was the only highlight.
Contrary to the nonsense being spluttered by the media, Jose Mourinho’s sending off is a showing of clear passion that needs to be acknowledged. We live in a football era dominated by the paycheck, and the passion of sides from generations in the past is lacking. Jose Mourinho, at Manchester United to reverse that reality, is starkly contrasting Louis van Gaal’s relatively careless approach. The fact Jose Mourinho was sent off is an absolute abomination.
Graham Poll has stated that Mourinho should be banned for six matches for kicking a water bottle, but Jurgen Klopp yelling “Are you f***ing kidding me” to the 4th official was a statement of passion. Klopp should do us all a favour and say that to Graham Poll. The commentators on my broadcast said that and I am not exaggerating, Mourinho is hitting out at the fact he’s no longer the darling of the media because Klopp and Antonio Conte are more adored by the press. Are you kidding me? Seriously, the man with the biggest role in world football is upset because he wants the media to love him? Finally, I’ve heard that Mourinho is setting a poor example for children who are watching. Is he really? Protesting and speaking out, pursuing what you believe in, is not setting a poor example for children. Setting a poor example for children is not fighting for what you believe in. Do you want the future of this world to be feckless men and women who don’t chase what they want? Jose Mourinho is the biggest man in football and he’s entitled to be able to kick a water bottle and not get fined for improper conduct, especially when there are other men verbally abusing officials.
United is making excellent progress, and if Mourinho is persisted with, there will be rewards. He is not at this club for the money, he is here to live up to his idol and manage the club he has been at for his whole life. While it isn’t painted to flatter to deceive like Pep Guardiola’s performance for City, which has been worse than that of Manuel Pellegrini so far, Mourinho will carry this club forward if it is the last thing he ever does. It is clear that the man is a genius, whether or not he is winning, and he needs more time to implement not only new football but a new culture. If you do not want to support that culture, do not support the side when they are back to their best.