Players set for make or break season under Jose Mourinho

The arrival of a new manager is always an exciting prospect. It’s interesting to see what the new guy would do with his new team, how different he’s going to be to the old manager, and all the changes he’s going to make. And following Jose Mourinho’s arrival at Manchester United, you can be sure that there will be changes. United have been linked with a raft of players already, even before the Portuguese’s appointment was confirmed, and Mourinho would surely be looking at players that would suit his playing style.

But what about those already at the club? Because United’s squad is already as thin as it is, necessitating the promotion of several youth players to cover for injured players, it doesn’t seem like there would be a massive fire sale of players this summer unless they’re players Mourinho really see as dead weight. However, Mourinho is the type of manager who sticks with something that works. If he finds a winning team in his selection, he won’t deviate from it much. This would mean that the players in this team are performing to the best of their ability, but it will inevitably lead to players being left out in the cold, struggling to get in the team. The following players are at risk of falling into the latter category, but if they play their cards right, could become one of the former.



Adnan Januzaj

Januzaj was the silver lining in the dark, dark cloud that was the 2013-14 season, breaking into the first team in spectacular fashion at just 18 years of age. However, that was over two years ago. Since then, his career has not gone the way most have expected. With a forgettable loan spell at Borussia Dortmund in the middle, he failed to nail down a place in Louis van Gaal’s team and became a complete stranger by the end. If he is to become an important part of the first team in the future, and develop to become the player he was promised to be, next season was always going to be an important season for Januzaj. But under Mourinho, it could be something even bigger.

As Chelsea manager, Mourinho didn’t make his admiration of Januzaj a secret, and it’s easy to see why. In his first season, Januzaj garnered comparisons to Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil, most notably from former United player Henning Berg. Januzaj has not had much chance to play centrally and show off the side of his game that leads to the comparison, but under Mourinho, that could change. Ozil’s best performances have come under Mourinho at Real Madrid, so imagine what Januzaj can become under his management. That is, of course, if he could get into his team in the first place.



Ander Herrera

Herrera was a breath of fresh air when he came to United, their first creative central midfielder since Paul Scholes, and he shone. After United started using the 4-3-3 in 2014-15, he became an important part of the time and played his role brilliantly. But after United switched to a 4-2-3-1 at the start of last season, he lost his place and has yet to regain it. Under Mourinho, this is something he will have to deal with once again.

Mourinho has faithfully used the same formation since his time at Inter Milan. And what makes matters worse for Herrera, Mourinho shows a preference to using a defensive midfield pivot, pairing Esteban Cambiasso with Thiago Motta at Inter, and Xabi Alonso with Sami Khedira at Real Madrid. It wasn’t until Luka Modric’s arrival at Madrid, in Mourinho’s final season, that he started playing an attack-minded midfielder in a pivot. He also signed Cesc Fabregas and played him in that role to great effect. If the player is good enough, Mourinho would be willing to shift from a defensive pivot, and that is what Herrera needs to show.



Jesse Lingard

It’s incredible to think that, at his age, Lingard had only just completed his first full season at United. It seemed like he was set for a breakthrough the season before, but an injury in the first game of the season ended his chance to break into the first team and was sent out on loan in February. Last season, Lingard finally broke into the first team properly, and his role in the team grew as the season went on, culminating in him scoring the goal that won United the FA Cup title.

It’s not easy to gauge what role Lingard would play under Mourinho. On paper, he doesn’t seem to be at the level Mourinho wants his players to be at. Compare him to other wingers Mourinho has managed, and the difference in quality is clear. But Mourinho likes players he can depend on to step up in important games, and attackers who don’t shirk their defensive duties. Lingard has shown that he fits both categories. United have many options in the transfer market for players better than Lingard, and Mourinho may take one of them, but if Lingard continues to step up when it counts, he might just stick around.

Written by Adimurti Pramana


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