The curse of the Sky Sports comparison catches up with all managers eventually. Predecessor after Predecessor compared to current bosses, with the intention of either painting them in a good light or making them seem like the second coming of that bloke that destroyed your club. In the case of Manchester United there are two variables available at both ends of the spectrum, but the press (in all their glory) tend to favour comparing both Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho to one David Moyes rather than Sir Alex Ferguson as fear mongering sells newspapers and gets clicks. Fans are drawn in by these, and believe that these comparisons have some kind of substance to them. Well I’m here to tell you they don’t, and where results have been less than favourable thus far the sun is rising on Mourinho’s tenure.
Before the appointment of the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’, I was a big critic if his. His off field antics and seemingly ‘park-the-bus’ style of football were big turn offs for me, and his ignorance of young talent simply fueled the fire. I won’t sit here and lie that I ever initially wanted Mourinho sat in the Old Trafford dugout as home manager, but I will say he is turning me as each game passes. Win, lose or draw.
The reasons for this are quite simple. Cast your minds back to the first transfer window of David Moyes reign for starters. Thiago Alcantara was the reported target, Marouane Fellaini the outcome. And now Louis van Gaal’s first window, Arturo Vidal was all but signed until he, well, wasn’t. Superstars linked with a move to the biggest club in England that chose elsewhere for reasons only they know. Lack of appeal? That’s my guess. Now this summer just gone, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are three huge names in world football and they all chose United, and I have a strong suspicion Mr Mourinho was a huge part of this.
It’s easy to pinpoint and evidence things with signings, but what is harder to put into words is the style of football currently on show. Why? Results are the usual indicator for improvement in this field, but the results so far have shown nothing but the contrary. Draws in each of the last 4 league home games have cast a superb win away at Swansea and dominating victories in cup competitions and rightly so. Results and form are what opinions are based on, and jobs are lost with. Neither shine in the favour of the new man.
And of course it makes it difficult to see the silver lining to the cloud, it’s natural as had United started the season in this way then they would certainly have been contenders for relegation. Panic is not what is needed right now, foresight is the most important thing fans need to hold onto because regardless of how embarrassing a 0-0 home draw with Burnley is, a record number of shots in one game is encouraging to say the least.
Against Arsenal, United dominated the game and were very much on the receiving end of some rotten luck and poor finishing. But against Feyenoord, Swansea and West Ham (in the EFL Cup), each of the goals came after exquisite football and mouth-watering build up play. Various players are getting better with each outing, and some that were certainties to be sold are suddenly turning into undroppable stalwarts (see Marcus Rojo and Phil Jones). Antonio Valencia has his mojo back and has been arguably one of the best players out there at the minute, Wayne Rooney is reinvigorated and Ander Herrera has been top shelf quality. All of a sudden, United are a different kettle of fish.
Of course the results are totally unacceptable – a twenty-first Premier League is looking an impossibility as things stand – but everything around it is so much better than it has been the previous three seasons. Things take time to come together, and this is so often forgotten in the fickle nature of modern football fans and their desire for instant success whatever the cost. Time has passed, and as it continues to do so the improvements continue to be seen. Mourinho has got this, he is the Special One after all.