There has been a lot of noise and talk about Jose Mourinho, and how he is doing – whether you think good or bad – in his tenure as Manchester United manager.
At the moment the jury seems to be out. Some fans are very supportive, some are indifferent, while some are very critical.
Either way, as a neutral looking in, I feel that all is not okay within the camp, and that Mourinho has no where near won over the Manchester United dressing room, never mind the fans.
Right from the word go, he seems to have picked up from exactly where he left off, from when his ill-fated stint as Chelsea manager came to a sticky end.
The opening match of the English season is the curtain raising Community Shield, at Wembley, a glorified friendly. So why in that match did Mourinho feel the need to substitute his substitute, Juan Mata, and humiliate the Spaniard? This was almost the first thing he did publicly as United manager.
All the rumours ahead of Mourinho’s appointment were that one of the first acts he would carry out as United manager, would be to get rid of Mata, after all, he sold him when he was Chelsea manager.
This smacked of the same old Jose, instead of taking Mata aside and telling him he was surplus to requirements, Jose decides to humiliate him on live TV instead.
To me that is sending out a signal to the dressing room, an unwelcome signal, that any of you can be the next to be publicly humiliated.
Nearly all players (with the exception of the likes of Ronaldo and Messi) get jettisoned by a manager who doesn’t fancy them at some point in their careers, but they expect to have it done with some dignity.
Straight away the treatment of Mata must have sent an uneasy feeling around the United dressing room. In fairness to Jose though, he has used the Spaniard a bit more than I expected he would this season.
I still wouldn’t be surprised to see Mata off loaded in the January transfer window though, and I bet the player is still very wary about what might happen to him next.
After Mourinho’s first spell in charge of Chelsea, I remember hearing a Frank Lampard interview, in which the midfielder said that Mourinho made him feel special, meaning when Lampard went out onto the pitch, he would feel like running through a brick wall for his manager.
I have yet to see that from this Manchester United side, they hardly look like they would cross the street for him, never mind run through a brick wall.
Mourinho has also recently criticised Luke Shaw, Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, in public. All this seems to be doing is heaping more pressure on his players.
We have seen glimpses of the old Mourinho though, as shown at Anfield when he set his team up not to lose, and to hopefully sneak a victory on the break. His strategy so nearly worked, and at the time was hailed as a master class from Jose.
That was soon followed by the 4-0 reversal at Chelsea, a match which seen the white flags raised by United. The defeat to Chelsea was quite shocking by both the standards of Manchester United, and Jose Mourinho.
It wasn’t just the scoreline, it was the manner of the defeat, it was embarrassing.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) October 23, 2016
This was then followed by the midweek fixture against Manchester City, which proved to be far more beneficial to Mourinho, than to his Manchester counterpart, Pep Guardiola.
When you put the match into context, it was always going to favour Mourinho (unless he lost of course). The EFL Cup was fourth on Manchester City’s list of priorities.
The Champions League, Premier League, and even FA Cup are more desirable to City, which is why Pep made nine changes to the side which drew with Southampton in the Premier League the previous Sunday.
The timing of the fixture played into the hands of Mourinho. After the Chelsea disaster, Mourinho had no real choice but to field his strongest team. While City have Barcelona next week, and where always going to rotate.
Beating City’s reserve side at Old Trafford doesn’t represent turning the corner for Manchester United. It was the bare minimum that should have been expected.
Ahead of the match, Jose was 20/1 in the next manager to lose his job betting (in the Premier League). The win will have eased the pressure on him, and with a match to come against Burnley this weekend, he will be expecting to get the Premier League campaign back on track.
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If United do slip up against Burnley, the pressure will really be back on Jose. Matches like this are expected to be a formality for teams like Manchester United, so anything other than three points on Saturday afternoon will see the doubts creep back in again.