CAN UNITED’S SQUEAKY WHEELS GET MOUR GREASE?

Jose Mourinho

He’s been special, he’s been happy, a winner…sore loser but often charismatic and certain of success, he divides, yet unites. Jose Mourinho is a complex beast. A man who loves media attention and uses it a key part of his managerial modus operandi. He is a man who becomes obsessively dark when it doesn’t go his way. Big ego Jose could be a victim of his own success!

You could argue he hasn’t looked the same person for the last 18 months, you could say he is a shadow of his former self. You can see it in his face and in his body language, muttering, gesticulating wildly, frowns, and bottle kicking. Some might say he looks like someone possessed by spirits. His struggles follow his disastrous final season at Chelsea when just months after leading them to the Premier League title he was sacked.

This behaviourial pattern mirrors those final days in the dugout at Chelsea, an episode he would rather delete from his rich resume. Jose Mourinho now uses same office Alex Ferguson used at United’s Carrington training ground.  Fergie would walk through the main canteen to exchange small talks, gossip and jokes with his players and staff alike, but the Emperor’s access route is quite different. Rather than using the obvious like Fergie, he chooses to use the back of the building to enter his private office. What Mourinho does not seem to have learned is no effective leader of men can isolate himself like that.

Manchester United lies sixth in the table, 90 or more days running now, despite spending £150m over the summer on new players. In his first 16 games in charge of the club, Mourinho had a worse record than both of his predecessors Louis van Gaal and David Moyes had in their first 16 matches (excluding the Community Shield). This does not make good read for our United faithful, after being spoilt on trophies and winnings by Sir Alex Ferguson.

Has he lost his mojo or did Eva leave with his yoyo?

Mourinho, not known for giving youth a chance in his managerial career is overseeing a decline in young footballers, especially those who have already made first-team breakthroughs, such as Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw. At Chelsea he sold KDB, Romelu Lukaku, Andre Schurrle et al, who he considered not good enough and surplus to requirements. The more recent form of those mentioned at their present clubs are a very big indictment on Jose.

According to Lingard in recent interview, the man whose watch runs slow is the one and only Paul Pogba. You would have thought that with the fee his agent got when Pogba signed for United they could have bought him a watch that works. The 24-year-old also said that Ander Herrera was the club workaholic, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is always down the gym, toning up. Interestingly, Lingard named Henrikh Mkhitaryan as the person who always hits the training ground before his teammates, so now we know why these three are the most consistent performers in the team.

Does this mean anything to you? Jose cut a niche for himself as a disciplinarian, who have tamed and brought out the best in some of football’s most stubborn players. Isn’t it ironic that the world’s most expensive player, Paul Pogba, is a perpetual late comer to training sessions and big Daddy Jose is not saying anything?

Jose signed Ibrahimovic last summer because he believed that neither Martial nor Rashford were experienced enough to lead the line on a regular basis for a gruelling campaign, which was spot on. Ibrahimovic accounts for more than 50% of United’s goals this season, which is not the mark of any championship winning side. The big Swede is used to winning things and is not likely to want to play for a side with no hope of helping him to any more major honours before he retires. It has been clear that Ibrahimovic is getting frustrated and if the rumour mill is to be believed then, then he’s leaving on the next train to Napoli. With 146 shots on target this term and about 30% of those was scored, and the highest draw in the division, it’s not rocket science Ibra would sure do with some help. Has the barber lost his skills or is the clipper blunt?

United were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw mid last week against Hull leading to Jose Mourinho selecting an attack-minded starting XI against Leicester. His team may have humiliated the reigning Premier League champions at the King Power Stadium, recording their biggest Premier League win, but Leicester is a dead horse this season, most likely to hit the drop. Are United back on track? As ever, it is impossible to say.

“I am happy. We don’t have a league defeat since October and if we tried to transform the unlucky draws to victories, we would be in an amazing position.”

One area where Mourinho feels his players need to improve is in attack with United trailing their top-six rivals by some distance; 33 goals from 23 league games is below par for a top four finish.

“My team is playing very well but for many, many years in my career, especially in this country, when my teams were ruthless and when they were phenomenal defensively and very good in the counter-attack, I listened week after week. It was not enough, in spite of winning the title three times. It looks like this season, to be phenomenal defensively and be good at counter attack is art, so it’s a big change in England.”

Please Jose! Focus here! While you spill your guts via the media, Chelsea and Spurs are talking with their feet. Why don’t you serve your haters and doubters a big Mac humble pie special, garnished with beef, onions and veggies?

Mourinho said he had “protected” Mkhitaryan by leaving him out of the team earlier in the season. Mkhitaryan, whose goal at Leicester was his fifth in 11 appearances, having been left out for nearly two months before returning in November. Jose, you can stop justifying this decision. All that matters right now is the bloke is firing on all cylinders and you owe nobody any explanations.

The round leather game keeps evolving in every area; Jose must change his touch line antics and understand that the whole world is not against him. That psychology is outdated and done with, instead of taking pressure off his players, it’s distracting and heaps pressure on them.

Jose needs to bring back that feel good factor into the dressing room, his enchanting smiles, tactical astuteness and block mentality focus that served him so well, if he wants to maintain his enviable managerial records.

It’s potentially a hard ask one might say, with 15 games to go in the season. Give Ibra some rest, he’s 35yrs for crying out loud, irrespective of how much he wants to play and give Martial a decent run in the team. Rashford was a revelation last season but seems unsure of himself now. Jose, work your magic, the abracadabra you hit Milito and Deco with. Give him the confidence not snarls, stop discussing your players at pressers. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas! Knowing his love relationship with the FA, refs and like, he should not moan about every decision that doesn’t go his way, after all its not peculiar to him alone. Forget the siege mentality and take a cue from Antonio Conte. Channel all the inner demons into the tactics and substitutions. Surely he would be celebrating like Conte or reenact his famous run along the touch line after we first saw Jose in the limelight, that horrible defeat to Porto in 2002.

Unbeaten since October, can Jose Mourinho lead us to a top four challenge in this second half of the season? As unlikely as it seems, if there’s one man you can count on, who has the tenacity, experience, guile, and swag to achieve that…it’s the “Special One.”

In a relentless competition like the Premier League, you snooze; you lose. Jose Mourinho is Chelsea’s trash now, but can he be our much sought after treasure?

The closing act for this season is definitely going to be exhilarating & breathless.