Last week, the obvious was finally announced: Louis Van Gaal was sacked by Manchester United. And just a few days later, it was announced that ‘Special One’, Jose Mourinho, would be his successor. Being a United fan, I viewed the whole situation with some very mixed feelings. Yes, Mourinho is a fantastic manager, one who is almost a certain to achieve success wherever he goes, but is he right for Manchester United? Will he adopt what many have been citing as the ‘United way’?
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) June 1, 2016
United at a Crossroads?
The issue of the ‘United way’ is one that has been an occurring for the Red Devils for the last few years now, not just with the appointment of Jose Mourinho. For many years, Manchester United knew their identity: fast, counter-attacking football, where an integrated system of youth development and ‘big money’ players were used. Sir Alex Ferguson was the embodiment of this system, having full control of virtually every aspect of the club and forming the perfect relationship with Chief Executive David Gill. Manchester United were a club that did transfers quietly, with the press often not knowing about big players joining until the deal was virtually done.
Now, however, Manchester United appear to be linked to any good player under the sun; New Chief Executive Ed Woodward is a man who appears to be constantly in the limelight, and United in recent years have paid extortionate fees for players who more often than not have proven to be distinctly average. This average nature has often been reflected by the style of United’s play, with Van Gaal’s style over the last few years being slated for its boring nature, with United often either drawing games 0-0 or nicking them 1-0; Fergie’s last game, in which they drew 5-5, feels a long time ago, then, for many fans this season. However, even the way that Van Gaal was sacked has been criticised for not fitting into the United way. Many, such as Southampton manager Ronal Koeman, were quick to slam the nature in which Van Gaal was dismissed, just days after securing the FA Cup for the Club. Koeman told the Sunday Mirror:
“I have watched the process around Louis and Jose Mourinho from a distance.
“For months we were all reading that Mourinho was busy with Manchester United.
“If Louis was not told about getting the sack until after the FA Cup final, then Manchester United as a club don’t deserve a medal for the way they treated him.
“If you know a little bit about the business at the highest level in football, then you know that these kind of deals are not done overnight.”
Mourinho’s appointment, then, comes at a crucial time. United appear to be in somewhat of an identity crisis, with the club looking to stumble their way out of what has been a fairly disappointing start to the post-Ferguson era. This, then, could be the chance for Mourinho to start the long-term project he has talked about for so long, particularly when he began his second spell at Chelsea. Manchester United certainly have the resources, money and structure in place for someone like Mourinho to build such a legacy.
However, many of course would say that Mourinho and long-term plans are not something that go hand in hand. Mourinho’s longest period in charge anywhere has been 3 years in the 16 years he has been in management. But, as Mourinho has reiterated in recent years, he’s becoming an older man and sees the future of his long-term career and family settled within England. Could this, then, be the time that Mourinho puts aside his itchy feet and controversies, and begin this long-talked-about legacy?
This is something certainly that United fans want answered. Will Mourinho continue to blood the youth and keep the faith with young starlets such as Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Cameron Northwick-Jackson and Timothy Fosu-Mensah? Will he play the fast, counter-attacking football that the fans want back at Old Trafford? Only time will tell, of course; nevertheless, the next 18 months or so will certainly be a defining moment for both the future of Jose Mourinho and the identity of Manchester United.