José: Do It The United Way…Or Else
Many Manchester United fans weren’t having Jose Mourinho as their manager when the rumour mill started months, perhaps even years before he got the Old Trafford hot seat.
‘Too pragmatic, too spiteful, too defensive, not a natural fit, etc etc”.
United The Institution
Why? Because after the United v Real Madrid match (the one where Nani got sent off for the high foot), Jose went out of his way so much to arse kiss the club, Fergie and the institution (I’ll come back to institution shortly), that if he ever got the job, surely, surely he would be the anti-Moyes, the anti-LVG manager and go back to what this club is about. Attack, attack, attack, expansive football and playing with expression.
The institution (I’m back to it) and what it stands for is the most important thing that any United manager must grasp, must accept and must embrace.
It’s not just a way of playing, it’s a way of playing that was built on Matt Busby’s dream.
His dream of taking an English club team, with young, exciting players who were ready as babies to fly across Europe and show the burgeoning powers of Real Madrid and co. that English players, British players could play with the swagger, technical brilliance and fearlessness of Di Stefano, Puskas and those men in all white.
That’s what the modern institution of Manchester United is founded upon. It’s not a myth and it’s not for changing; it’s a living breathing identity which every United team I’ve watched or played against have had in abundance.
But is it still relevant Stan? 4-4-2 with wingers, reckless attacking at times – does it still have a place when teams play with 2 holding midfielders and defend in numbers? Is it now irrelevant in the age of the “super manager”, with men on the sidelines who surely can out-think and outwit even the best tactics Fergie could throw up?
Leicester won the league with 4-4-2 last season, which was the antithesis of the hipsters’ code.
They argued that such a simple idea couldn’t go head-to-head against the squiggles, complicated formations and multi-million pound squads.
But you know what, it worked, worked well and that was from a team who were relegation favourites last season. So imagine, just imagine if Jose said, “Fuck it, I’m doing it the United way, out of my comfort zone.” Even better, he has the riches and fortunes which the Fergie years earned for the club. But if they are not careful, they’ll be frittered away without a pot to show for it.
No Way Jose
United, Liverpool, Real, Barca and Ajax all have a style which they will not compromise on. The style suits the club, its origins, its fanbase and it wins things when done properly. So the United team against Liverpool and Chelsea, with several hundred million pounds worth of technical talent being used to park the bus, or try to as the case was at Stamford Bridge, won’t be tolerated for long at Old Trafford.
And I have to say, as someone who felt Jose wouldn’t just embrace the United way but go out of his way to do it “on acid”…
…I’m mildly concerned and disappointed that he’s telling players in big games to get behind the ball, keep it tight and don’t concede.
Once you do that, at United, you’ve turned over the egg timer of discontent and unless you win every week, which always placates fans even if their discontent is palpable, then you’re asking for trouble.
Move The Bus
Some fans suggest that Jose, Pep and other great managers should never be for changing, that their stubborn belief in their methods is what make them successful. Maybe at Man City, who as far as I’m concerned have never had a style so ingrained from the foundations up, Pep can do what he likes and will always have a budget to buy out mistakes.
But Jose, at United, must embrace that club. He must embrace its ways, its thrilling attacking football or he’ll hear the whispering turn into open dissent down the line. Especially with the money he’s spent and the kind of players he’s bought.
Attack, attack, attack Jose! Parking the bus will never be accepted at Manchester United. Ever. Whoever you are.