There is no doubt it my mind that Manchester United have made the right decision replacing Louis van Gaal with Jose Mourinho.
United were going backwards under Van Gaal, who spent £250million on players but not did not use them correctly. He was misusing the players he had, playing them in the wrong positions, and it is telling how few improved under his coaching. The first job of any manager is to get the best out of his players and Van Gaal was failing to do that. Winning the FA Cup is not enough after slipping from fourth to fifth in the table. Even fourth should not have been enough to save him. In my opinion he had to go.
I have been saying for months that Mourinho should replace Van Gaal and am delighted to see that he is about to get the job. He is brilliant, an unbelievably good manager and, I believe, the only way that Manchester United can get back to where they need to be, at the top of the English game.
David Moyes and Van Gaal were both good managers but neither of them had won a single trophy in England, as a player or manager, before taking the job. Mourinho has already won the Premier League three times. That is no guarantee, but if you appoint someone who has been there before you have a far better chance.
After those three disappointing years at United since Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down, it is absolutely imperative that the new United manager has the experience to steady the ship and putting the club back on an upward curve again. That is all that matters.
I do think that Mourinho is on the wrong end of some pretty lazy opinions, particularly when it comes down to style of play. He is often accused of ‘parking the bus’, but in reality he just does what the match situation demands and is one of the very few managers who can turn an opposition’s strength into a weakness. A quick look at the records of his teams show that they score an awful lot of goals.
Let’s start with Inter Milan. In 2008-09 they scored 70 goals, the most in the league. In 2009-10, when they won the treble, they scored 75, the most in the league.
Then he went to Real Madrid. In 2010-11 they scored 102 goals, the most in Spain. In 2011-12 they scored a remarkable 121 goals, which is still a Spanish record. In 2012-13 they scored 103, the second most in Spain.
Back in England, Mourinho’s Chelsea scored 71 in 2013-14, the third most in the Premier League. Then, in 2014-15, when they won the title, 73 goals, the second most, and more than any Premier League team scored this season.
So I do not want to hear that Mourinho’s teams play boring negative football. Especially after Manchester United have just scored 49 goals in a whole league season, ninth in the league and just one more than Sunderland, who spent the whole season fighting to stay up. Mourinho’s United will certainly do better than that. I also think that fans of too many clubs are too attached to playing in their own mythical 'way', which ignores the fact that football is always evolving.
Then there is the accusation that Mourinho will not bring through as many young players as Van Gaal did. But many of the youngsters who featured under Van Gaal played because there were so many injuries, not because Van Gaal wanted to bring them through. Many of those youngsters are no longer involved.
Not many Premier League teams bring through young players. Look at Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, or Chelsea in the years before Mourinho returned, or since Guus Hiddink took over. Mourinho’s record is no worse than many other top Premier League managers.
I know some will point to what happened in his third season at Real Madrid and back at Chelsea, but that cannot be the focus of anyone at United right now. After such a difficult time recently, all that matters is improving United again. 2018-19 season is not the priority right now. If Mourinho is still there by then, United will certainly be in a better position than they are now.
And I am confident that United have the right materials to be competitive again under Mourinho. It is not a bad squad, despite some not so good spending, and Mourinho will certainly find players that he can work with. The main thing that Mourinho demands is work ethic, and he will find that at United. I have never watched United this season and thought that player did not care or were not trying. The problem is that they were not being used correctly.
Two players who appear to be at a crossroads are Juan Mata, who Mourinho sold to United from Chelsea, and Memphis Depay who has not hit it off yet since signing. But the rest of them should flourish under Mourinho, especially those who were underused this year, like Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera and Matteo Darmian, all Van Gaal signings.
But Mourinho will know this squad inside out already, and will have been studying United in depth since he left Chelsea at Christmas. He will have a clear idea of who he wants to bring in, too, just a few important signings in the spine of the team. I would look at a new centre-back, a ball-winner in midfield and possibly another centre-forward.
Mourinho has worked with Zlatan Ibrahimovic before and he could be the inspiration this squad needs. He is a big character and could have the same affect that Eric Cantona had when he joined in 1992.
But the most important signing of United’s summer has already been made, now that they finally have the right manager in charge again.
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