Mourinho is right; the world’s best team isn’t for purchase, it’s for building

The Manchester United faithful are experiencing a distasteful concoction of dissatisfaction and unsettlement after a 1-0 pre-season loss to Barcelona came amid a struggle to complete reasonable deals during this summer transfer window. United’s transitional era has left a bittersweet flavour in the mouths of the fans, accustomed to consistent success and unable to accept the time required to reach the pinnacle of football.

Barcelona, and to an even greater extent, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, are at an unrivalled level in world football in terms of raw talent, but Manchester United fans believe their beloved Red Devils belong at this level too, and rightfully so; United are the richest club in world football ahead of these three clubs. However, this desire has led to a belief that the solution is to splurge in the transfer market and pay over-the-odds to bring players into the club in every position.

The conundrum hasn’t been solved by Jose Mourinho, who openly stated that United isn’t at the level of Barcelona and Real Madrid, and his ‘satisfaction’ with this fact unsettled corners of United’s fanbase to an even greater degree. However, Mourinho also said that the calibre of players at Real Madrid and Barcelona don’t grow on trees, and United need to work to be competitive with these sides.

Paul Pogba showed the level and he belongs to that level. If you want to compare my team with Real Madrid or Barcelona it’s easy to compare the level of the players. It’s easy but we don’t play in the same competition as them unless we meet them in the European competitions.

“So we prefer not to compare us with them; we prefer to compare with the teams we play week in week out in the Premier League and we are much more adapted to that very hard competition. But it’s a competition with a different style and player.

“I think in this moment the best players are in these two clubs and you have to accept that as a reality but for us to play against both in pre-season without any kind of pressure or being worried about a result and to play the best, you can see was very good for us and both play with their best team. I think only [Gerard] Piqué was on the bench, Real had only Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos who didn’t play.

“Lionel Messi and Neymar – there is only one Messi and one Neymar – and Luis Suárez, Andrés Iniesta, Piqué, Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos. So they can only be playing for a club not two clubs; we can’t have them, they belong to the clubs. You can be working very hard tactically to improve your players but there are players that are special players and there is nothing you can do.

“You try to compensate the difference in quality with a certain tactical organisation and with that you can win in football. It’s possible a team is on a certain day better than the sum of the parts. But the parts are amazing, their relation with the ball is amazing, you can argue about occupation of spaces and speak about all of that. But the relation with the ball is still the most important thing and as an opponent on the bench like I am it is beautiful to see their relation with the ball.”

Mourinho named off a list of players from the two clubs, branding them “one of a kind”, highlighting that they can only play for one club, not two. Barcelona and Real Madrid’s squads have occupied almost half the Ballon d’Or shortlist in recent years, with Bayern Munich occupying much of the other half, and exempting rare occasions, these players have no reason to leave for Manchester United, or anyone, due to being consistently competitive for trophies and accolades at their current clubs.

One can attempt to compensate for the difference in quality with tactics, similarly to Atletico Madrid and Juventus in recent years. But, regardless of tactics, he admits that these sides have players with ability that succeeds the imagination of most clubs in world football. This leaves Manchester United between a rock and a hard place, unable to acquire these players but facing a lack of sympathy from fans who demand them.

Sir Alex Ferguson left the club with declining stars and David Moyes failed to replace them; Louis van Gaal tried to purchase too many players at once, and the result was too much change for the side to perform to the standard required; Champions League qualification. Jose Mourinho joined the club, made four additions of this quality (or with this level of ability), and now he seeks to add four more. He has demanded time, but fans want to see a complete overhaul again, instead of seeing the club slowly improve and develop.

But what makes Jose Mourinho’s quotes so brilliant is the part I haven’t yet mentioned; the first part. Mourinho highlighted the fact that Paul Pogba is an example of that level; the example of the level of Real Madrid and Barcelona that Manchester United need to reach again. How did Pogba rise to the fore?

Through United’s youth ranks. The path to success is one that will be predicated on the tactical successes of experienced players such as Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Ander Herrera, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic; the world class players and industrious talents that Manchester United can lure to the club and create tactical masterplans to compete with Europe’s best while Mourinho builds his own generation of unique world footballers. This perfectly explains why Mourinho would have wanted Antoine Griezmann, a player who has solely carried Atletico throughout the knockout stages.

Based on these quotes, Mourinho’s plan is to use tactics to attempt to beat Europe’s best while developing a side of Europe’s best players who won’t leave the club. Real Madrid and Barcelona’s dominance was created at a time where they farmed Europe’s best players while finding opportunities to purchase the best players in the world, and Mourinho clearly plans to do the same with United.

Instead of expecting United to become Real Madrid and Barcelona, because it will fail, watch the current generation of our talented heroes attempt to dethrone the sides that have the best players in the world- classic dark-horse, underestimated Manchester United. And allow Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw, David De Gea, Axel Tuanzebe, Andreas Pereira, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Victor Lindelof, and even Jesse Lingard to develop into the future of a massive squad of young talent that promises to be among the best on the planet in five years.

And who knows, United may win a Champions League playing counter-attacking football and with players producing heroic moments. But if you’re expecting to wake up tomorrow morning, hear the signings of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and have the Champions League delivered to Old Trafford, Mourinho and Ed Woodward will continue to disappoint.

Written by Aaron Moniz


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