The problem with Jose Mourinho is that he is winning the wrong games. Manchester United are now favourites to win both the League Cup and the Europa League.
However, Mourinho’s priorities when he arrived at Old Trafford as Manchester United’s third manager in as many years were the Premier League and re-qualification for the Champions League. Despite some fine midweek wins in the cups, they could go to Everton on Sunday 11 points adrift of the Champions League pack. And nobody at Old Trafford quite knows why.
For Michael Carrick the answer lies partially in failing finish off opponents who have spent most of the match on United’s ropes and partially in the battle to escape the long shadow of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Carrick was brought to Old Trafford in the summer of 2006. United had gone three years without the Premier League title and were thought a fading force in Europe. He arrived from Tottenham just in time for the final surge of the Ferguson era that would see Manchester United win five titles in seven seasons and appear in three European Cup finals. Ferguson’s departure would always take some adjusting to.
“It was never going to happen overnight,” he said. “I didn’t think we would move on quickly (from Ferguson). He had been here so long. We are getting there. I can say that, though I know we are well away in the league.
“It is not something where you flick a switch and everything is all right. You have to build as a team, gain experience and get some momentum behind you. We have the players to do it and the manager has certainly done it before.”
Manchester United transfer targets
Manchester United transfer targets
1/6 Jose Gimenez (Atletico Madrid)
The 21-year-old Uruguayan has already played 21 times for his country and has been touted as a future world-class centre-back. Currently on the books of Atletico Madrid, Gimenez is not a regular and a move in January for first-team football would surely appeal to him.
2/6 Victor Lindelof (Benfica)
The most recent player to be linked with the Red Devils, Lindelof is a 22-year-old centre-back currently plying his trade at Benfica. The Swedish international has been in fine form this season and could be tempted by a move to England in January.
3/6 Mesut Özil (Arsenal)
The German midfielder has emerged as a shock transfer target for the Red Devils as the Arsenal playmaker demands a substantial increase to his current £140,000 per week contract in North London.
4/6 Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid)
The French forward had a brilliant season in Spain last year and was top scorer and Player of the Tournament as he helped his country to the final of Euro 2016. Atletico Madrid would certainly not let him go on the cheap however.
5/6 Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid)
The third Atletico Madrid player reported to be on Mourinho’s wish-list, Carrasco is one of Belgium’s new generation of talent and, at just 23 years of age, has a long career ahead of him. The Belgian is an attacking midfielder who has added a ruthlessness in front of goal to his repertoire this season, contributing nine goals in all competitions.
6/6 Bruma (Galatasaray)
Galatasaray’s fleet-footed winger is rated at around £21.5m and has impressed in the Turkish league this season, receiving five Man of the Match awards in just ten starts so far. Bruma is a fantastic dribbler who would certainly provide competition for places on the left wing.
Part of the problem is that two of the factors the underpinned Mourinho’s management success have begun to fray. Mourinho’s teams seldom squandered a lead, something they have done regularly, especially at Old Trafford.
Mourinho was also a manager who excelled at quick starts. In the nine seasons since taking over at Porto in 2002, his starts have been astonishingly consistent. After his first 13 games whether at Porto, Chelsea, Internazionale or Real Madrid, his teams had between 30 and 35 points in every season between 2002-2012. He used to remark that a league was no longer a marathon but an extended sprint and he was always first off the blocks.
His last four seasons have been very different. In only one of them – the championship-winning campaign at Chelsea – has Mourinho’s team reached the 30-point barrier after 13 games. In his final season at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea were being drawn ever closer to the relegation zone while Old Trafford has seen its worst start to a season since 1989, when the famous banner bidding Ferguson “Ta-ra” was unveiled at the Stretford End.
Carrick, like so many at Old Trafford, is not particularly sure why. When the one-time England batsman, Allan Lamb, was pressed to explain a string of low scores, he exclaimed: “I feel in great form. I just keep getting out.” Carrick thinks much the same about Manchester United.
“It doesn’t feel like we have had such a bad start,” he said. “You are judged on results, that’s what this business is about, but, at the same time, you gauge it in performances. There isn’t any major problem that needs fixing.
“Sometimes, you find yourself in a run; you’re not winning, there are a lot of problems and you think to yourself: ‘we’re in a bit of trouble here’. We don’t feel like that at all.
“It has been a funny time but we need to stay positive. We know we have a lot of work to do to catch up in the league but, if we keep plugging away, results will certainly come. How far that takes us, we will have to wait and see.”Reuse content