Former Manchester United player Rio Ferdinand believes the fear factor has returned to Old Trafford. The Reds haven’t been feared since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson, however, Ferdinand – who made over 450 appearances in all competitions for United – insists Jose Mourinho has changed the mentality around his old club.
Mourinho wasted no time in building what he believes to be a title-challenging side, bringing in the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and word record signing Paul Pogba. So far, so good for the former Chelsea boss. He lifted the Community Shield in his first competitive match in charge of the Reds as well as boasting a 100% win record in the Premier League this term with 3-1 and 2-0 victories of Bournemouth and Southampton respectively.
The six-time Premier League winner played for United across twelve seasons between 2002 and 2014 and he firmly believes that the club is heading in the right direction following three below-par campaigns since Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down in 2013. Ferdinand, speaking to talkSPORT, said:
“What it looks like is teams are in the tunnel looking across and saying ‘oh that’s Zlatan [Ibrahimovic], oh that’s [Paul] Pogba’ and that is what it used to be like. You used to win the games in the tunnel sometimes. They still have to prove that, they get it initially but they have to go out and prove it and, including the Community Shield [win over Leicester] they have done that. That fear factor will start to grow the longer they go on and win. The biggest change for them, other than the players they have bought, is the mentality shift.
“Under Van Gaal for the last two years there’s been a negative vibe around, not only the football team, but the place. I think that’s changed with Mourinho and one of his biggest obstacles would have been to change the mentality of the players, from playing sideways and trying to nick games here and there to being a team that dominates physically, tactically and all over the park. It’s a huge shift for them this season.”
The three seasons that followed Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement have been painful viewing as a United fan, there’s no point in beating around the bush, the football has been mediocre at best and the seventh, fourth and fifth placed finishes that followed Fergie’s departure have echoed that. Despite winning the FA Cup last term (for the first time since 2004), Louis van Gaal was relieved of his duties as he failed to deliver Champions League football. The Dutchman also set an unwanted club record last season as his side just 49 goals in the Premier League, the lowest tally since the league inception back in 1992.
In the past, Mourinho teams have been branded ‘boring’, none more so than during his second stint at Chelsea. It might still be every early to judge but the football on show since Mourinho’s arrival has been anything but boring. The Reds seem to have regained their swagger, something that has been missing since they last won the league in 2013. While the signings of Ibrahimovic and Pogba have stolen the headlines, Mourinho has instilled some much-needed confidence into the players who needed it the most, Marouane Fellaini looks a different player while Antonio Valencia isn’t afraid to cross the ball to the back post anymore. Whatever happens this season, boring isn’t a word I’ll be using to describe Mourinho’s United.