In The Pulpit: What now?

Opinion

That was crap, wasn’t it?

The title race is now officially over, even though it was already over when City had moved 8 points clear. Yes, United overturned a 12 point deficit on Newcastle in 1996, but City aren’t managed by a tactically suicidal Kevin Keegan. It’s done and dusted.

Rather than spend this article verbally windmilling at Mourinho for his part in that dismal display at the weekend, I would rather look forward. Not as far forward as I would like, to the beautiful post-Mourinho landscape when we win every game 6-0, playing football on a par with Brazil 1982. Instead, we’ll look ahead to what remains of the season.

Despite all the talk of winning the league before the season, I’m pretty certain that all the higher-ups wanted was a top-four finish. Barring a disastrous six months, this already looks assured. In fact, so does second place, although that is a rather more precarious position. Most fans would be happy with that, considering the post-Fergie era.

But Mourinho went big before the season. He talked about winning the league. He won’t be in any danger of getting the chop, but he’ll see finishing below first as failing. There’s been a growing opinion in some parts that his methods are beginning to get outdated and he is sure to be wary of this. Like he did last season, he will turn to the cup competitions to try to maintain his reputation.

United have winnable ties in all three of the cup competitions, facing Bristol City, Derby and Sevilla. Quarter finals or beyond will be deemed a success in the Champions League, although Mourinho will back himself to get United further. In the domestic cups, The Reds should be looking to win both of them, especially considering they won one last year and got to the later rounds of the other. All of these things are eminently possible with the current squad and even the current tactics.

In my opinion (and that’s why we’re all here isn’t it?), Jose really needs to look at the next six months as a time to develop this squad for next year. He almost has a chance to experiment, decide on a plan and mould his squad to suit it. He certainly hasn’t worked it out so far. The multiple squad and formation changes we’ve seen so far illustrate this. He needs to discard the deadwood as early as possible, see if he can find a few players out in the transfer market and maybe even look to the youth academy? Hey, maybe he’ll play free-flowing, attacking football?

Sorry, look, ignore that last part. I’ve had a really long day involving a photocopying debacle and I’ve gone a bit weird. Just ignore that very final line. The rest I stand by.

Despite all the above, I still feel this is the beginning of the end for Mourinho. We’re a very long time from the end and it certainly won’t be this season. But it is coming. The ‘plan’ that United fans would love to see is beautiful attacking football. Jose’s ‘plan’ is likely to be football of attrition. A strong defence, workmanlike midfielders and a hard-working forward. Terry, Lampard, Drogba. I’m not sure that will fly for the vast majority of United fans.

The poor performances in the big games will do for Jose. The defensive, risk-free football will do for him further. There’ll be riots on the streets if he ends that record of featuring youth players in a squad for 80 years straight. He has a chance now to spend a bit of time to build towards next year’s title push. To create something truly spectacular. Much more likely, he’ll stick to his principles and go down with them.

Every week in this column, I’ll end with a ‘Jose Out’ rating. This is a rating out of 10 to show how much I would like him to be sacked. I’m not a fan of the man and haven’t been from the beginning, but I feel I should represent my feelings as they move from week to week. It’ll be a gauge to show how much you should hate me and how much of a traitor I am for ‘not supporting the team.’

Jose Out rating: 6/10. ‘How could United be so defensive in a derby?’ Because we hired Jose? Has a chance to make sure the team is better next year. I’m not sure that he’ll take it.

About the Author

Bob Priestley
Manchester United fan and writer of 'entertaining articles' or 'a collection of words' depending on who you listen to