2016 is nearly over and it has been a long year for Manchester United fans. A rough second season for Louis van Gaal saw the Dutchman sacked just two days after the club won its record-tying 12th FA Cup. Now, Jose Mourinho is in the middle of his first season in charge at United and summer signing Eric Bailly praised the Portuguese manager.
“He [Mourinho] is a great manager, the best in the world. It is a pleasure to work and learn with him. I hope it continues like this and that I stay at United for a long time. I’m truly happy with my team and my teammates. Bit by bit, I’m getting to know more.
“La Liga is the best in the world, but here it is different, very direct. There is more contact and more strength.
“And like I said, little by little, and with more training under this manager, I hope to improve. Manchester is a nice place. I’m happy here.”
Mourinho attracted Bailly along with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba to United this past summer, and all four players can be deemed successful signings. Ibrahimovic is the leading scorer, tearing up the Premier League, Pogba has been silently working his magic in the midfield, Mkhitaryan took time but turned into an explosive attacker and Bailly is a strong centre-back. Mourinho earned criticism from fans and pundits for keeping Mkhitaryan off the field at the beginning of the season but the Armenian midfielder was given a chance later in the season and took it with force. Since then, he has bagged three goals, one of which was an acrobatic scorpion kick to clinch a 3-1 win over Sunderland at Old Trafford on Boxing Day. There is a new life in this squad, and Mourinho may be to thank for it.
Something that is concerning regarding Mourinho is that he tends to only manage teams for short stints (about three years). He does, however, win in that short span of time. At the moment, with the Premier League being so competitive, United do not look destined to attain silverware this year, certainly not the Premier League crown itself. The FA Cup, Europa League, and EFL Cup are all possible trophies for United, with the Europa League possibly the most important tournament if United want to guarantee a spot back in the Champions League next season.
For a new dynasty to begin at United, Mourinho will have to stick it out. He has been successful elsewhere but it is a different type of success to do it year after year than being able to leave one club and start over at another when the going gets tough. He has bounced around from FC Porto to Chelsea to Inter Milan and to Real Madrid in his managerial career. Now with United, there is a chance for Mourinho to be around for a long time. There were rumours of a contract renewal and if he does choose to take it and try to make it in the long-run, the true greatness of Mourinho will have to come out.
This is what will make or break his career. He is given a war chest to spend what he wants on players (Pogba for instance is the world-record signing) and he must make a team that can succeed not only for the three years he could only spend at United, but for the decade or more he should spend at Old Trafford. This is his chance to become a legend. Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger are the last two long-term managers in Premier League football, but Mourinho could change that trend and revitalise a club that desperately needs new life.