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Jose Mourinho and youth; an ongoing battle?

A serial winner at every club he has ever managed; notorious for his expertise in the pragmatic controlling of games, his highly disciplined philosophy of man management and also the possession of a witty and slightly eccentric persona, Jose Mourinho is certainly a part of the managerial elite within the game. However, there is one flaw that has lingered around Mourinho throughout his career and is one that has drawn criticism from pundits and fans – his reluctance in playing the youth.

When you look back at the industrious clubs Mourinho has managed they have predominantly been star-studded with world-class talent. With exception to FC Porto, Mourinho has always favoured with strengthening his squad with high-profile players and is certainly not afraid to splash the cash. It of course only took Mourinho three months whilst in charge of Manchester United to break the world record transfer fee with the €100 million capture of Paul Pogba, thus making him the biggest spending manager in history with transfers mounting up to a whopping £800 million.

No room at Joses Inn for the youth

A busy transfer window has become a prominent theme throughout Mourinho’s managerial career and when we analyse his signings we can see a distinct pattern in his acquisitioning of a specific type of player. Before taking a deeper look into Jose’s transfers I would like to bring you to the attention of the phrase ‘mourinhoise’. The term, ‘mourinhoise’ has become a popular way of describing Mourinho’s transitioning of a club in which he transforms and builds a squad into his own very detailed and particular taste. For example, when analysing his first tenure at Chelsea, we witnessed the signings of the likes of Didier Drogba, Ricardo Carvalho, Michael Ballack and Michael Essien – players that possess a very strong robust and winning mentality. The same can be said with his reigns at Inter Milan and Real Madrid through his transfers of; Sully Muntari, Thiago Motta, Mancini, Sami Khedira, Luka Modric and yet again, Carvalho. The acquisition of these types of players is integral to Mourinho’s vision when he takes over a club because as we have seen from his short reign with Manchester United, Mourinho demands players of a strong mentality but most importantly a player that he can trust to do a job.

So, why is all this relevant? Well, this specific detailing Mourinho looks for in a player, alongside his obsessive attitude of wanting to win games all accumulates together in Mourinho being reluctant to consider his academy players. Mourinho’s hesitation to play the youth this season has indeed come under scrutiny with many fans as other than Marcus Rashford, the inclusion of academy players as been all but scarce. The frustration particularly stems from games such as the home FA cup ties against Reading or Wigan Athletic, or even Saint-Etienne away, where United had a 3-0 lead and still we didn’t see the inclusion of any youth products bar Timothy Fosu-Mensah (subbed off in two of these games). It is evident that Mourinho prefers to continuously play a stronger side in order to gain as much success in the season as possible, even if this means sacrificing the inclusion of youth members.

This reluctance of including the youth from Mourinho has however not just been with his management at Manchester United. You could, in fact, argue that Mourinho is hesitant in rotating his starting XI in any shape or form, as excluding United this season due to multiple injuries, Mourinho has always preferred to operate with a concrete starting eleven throughout his career. Again, his dedication of the controlling of games thus leaves no room for error and thus creates a hesitant mindset when choosing inexperienced youth products.

Time for a change in philosophy?

When Jose Mourinho was appointed as Manchester United manager back in May 2016, the big question raised by pundits was of course whether he would alter his ways to suit United’s traditional philosophy of bringing up players through their Academy. Notorious for the Busby Babes, the Class of 92 and of course a range of individuals such as Darren Fletcher, Brian Kidd, and the iconic George Best, Manchester United have always maintained the reputation of placing a trust in their youth. This trust has been seen from famous managers such as Sir Alex Ferguson and Matt Busby, who both evidently had a long-term vision for the club, through their integration of the youth players into the squad with the aim of one day consolidating a concrete team.

On the other hand to this, Mourinho has never stayed at a club for more than three successive seasons. There is a question of whether his playing philosophy and the demanding workload is something that can be implanted as a long-term plan for a club. In Mourinho’s career there is a distinct pattern of perhaps a burn out stage of his players where after two vigorous years under the Portuguese’s management, players do seem to struggle to maintain their momentum. Does Mourinho ever, in fact, plan to settle and build a dynasty at a club or is he happy for two to three seasons of success and then move on? During five years at Chelsea, the club he did publicly state he would love to stay at, Mourinho has only handed out eleven teenagers their debut in the Premier League with all of them being substitutes (five in the 85-90 minute mark). Even at Chelsea, there was a strong reluctance to include many of their brightest stars such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Nathaniel Chalobah, again something that their own fans criticised.

If Mourinho does plan to stay at Manchester United for the long run then this is something that he certainly does need to change. Admittedly, it is evident that the side is largely going through a transitional stage and come this Summer a lot of ‘deadwood’ is expected to be removed. However, come next season the fans and perhaps even the board above Mourinho will expect to see the inclusion of more academy players, most particularly in the cup games.

Written by Joshua Gmerek

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