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Manchester United did not evolve after Ferguson, says Mourinho

Until the appointment of Jose Mourinho in May 2016, Manchester United had failed to evolve at all since the reign of Sir Alex Ferguson. According to the man himself, both David Moyes and Louis van Gaal were unable to succeed at United because they didn’t do enough to take the club forward. Ferguson was the last man to win a title at Manchester United, leading the club to their 20th English title in 2013. Since then, the abject failure of both Moyes and van Gaal led United to a period of stagnation, one that finally ended last season after Mourinho led United to two trophies, including a first Europa League triumph.

Getting inside the mind of a manager is an enlightening experience. Some, like legendary Barcelona coach Johan Cruyff, see their work as a ‘philosophy’. Former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal, another disciple of the Dutch vision of total football, also referred to a ‘philosophy’, his own view of football that he worked tirelessly to make a success. Current United boss Jose Mourinho has no time for a rigid philosophy. His pragmatic view of football is instead focused on evolution. A willingness to adapt and change and improve constantly. Change that, in Mourinho’s mind, did not occur at Old Trafford between Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 and his own appointment three years later.

“There was an evolution in the other clubs; there was no evolution in this club. In all the areas that make a team successful, I think we stopped in time.

“That was quite an empty period in the club with no evolution in areas that are important. It was the weight of the past on the shoulders of the players, managers, even boards, even probably owners, because when you are used to ‘win and win and win’, and suddenly you stop, it’s like a heavy burden.

“Today, we have better working conditions, a better medical department, a better analysis department, a better scouting department, a better media department, and in many cases we did it without changing the people, which is quite important.”

Fans and neutrals alike would agree that Manchester United are a better side with Mourinho at the helm that at any other point since Ferguson left the club. Despite the obvious improvements, both David Moyes and Louis van Gaal have expressed surprise and disappointment that they were relieved of their duties.

Moyes has often spoken out against his treatment at Old Trafford, citing that, despite his six-year contract, he wasn’t given an appropriate amount of time to succeed at the club. Fans will point out that his 10-month tenure led to United’s worst ever Premier League season. Dropping from champions the year before to a seventh placed finish was only ever going to be rewarded with dismissal.

Louis van Gaal, on the other hand, has often remained more dignified, preferring not to speak about his time at United. Until now. Earlier this week, van Gaal criticised his former employers for his sacking, suggesting it was arranged in secret while he was still in charge.

“United put my head in a noose and I was publicly placed on the gallows.

“The pressure was enormous with my head in the noose and they went right behind my back.

“I think it was all orchestrated like a film and it was done very much behind my back right from January.”

If the appointment of Mourinho was conducted this way then there is plenty to criticise the club for. However, looking at Manchester United’s record in December 2015, is it any wonder they moved to replace their manager?

Being knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage, failing to score at home to West Ham and losing three consecutive Premier League games to Bournemouth, Norwich and Stoke was a shambolic representation of Louis van Gaal’s abject failure. A fourth place finish followed by a fifth place finish was never, ever going to be good enough. Winning the FA Cup just made it a little easier to swallow.

So now we must return to the evolution under Jose Mourinho. His United team are top of the Premier League, albeit on goal difference, and appear to be in rude health following another summer of excellent transfer business.

The signings of Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic, two proven Premier League players who Mourinho knows well from his time at Chelsea, have settled in exceptionally quickly, allowing United to evolve into the team that stands before us.

“Lukaku was my player as a kid.

“He left [Chelsea] because he was thinking he deserves more opportunity, but he’s such a good guy that during these years we were in close contact with a good relationship. So I knew he was an intelligent guy with a positive attitude.”

His assessment of Matic was more concise, analysing the Serbian in no uncertain terms.

“I cannot say that I had better guys than him in my career.”

Jose Mourinho may not be getting everything right in his time at Old Trafford, but you certainly cannot argue with his understanding of this giant club. Before his arrival, they were going backwards. Now, with crucial investment and a changing mentality, he’s taking Manchester United forward again. Long may it continue.

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