One way or another, it has to happen — Louis van Gaal’s sacking. It’s so inevitable in a way that it’s a question when, not if. Things just aren’t going right for the Iron Tulip especially as rumours of Jose Mourinho loom over his head.
It’s been around eighteen months since the Dutchman took over the reins, and while there were some important wins, there was this niggling feeling that United may run out of luck one day — such was the nature of their wins. United didn’t show any signs of gripping football that fans had been accustomed to while slices of good fortune helped Van Gaal a lot.
Wow. ‘[United] failed to win a game in December and collected only two points to make it the poorest month in the club’s 137-year history.’
— pauliegunn (@PaulGunning1) January 1, 2016
And now that Lady Luck has turned her back on Old Trafford, things are in an indescribable mess.
Many figures have been linked with Van Gaal’s job recently and someone who tops that particular list is the man who Chelsea booted out quite recently — Jose Mourinho. After all the hate and expletives that the Old Trafford faithful have dished out at the former Porto, Inter Milan and Real Madrid coach, the tides have turned and United fans have begun to regard him more as a saviour than savage.
But much like any other new heir to a role, the question which pops up almost instantly in our mind is would Mourinho and Manchester United be a match made in heaven or not?
What people generally made of Mourinho’s abrupt decline was that he was supposedly enduring his troublesome third season syndrome, much like his stint at Real Madrid and initially at Chelsea back in 2006/2007. After establishing the foundation of a title-challenging side during the 2013/2014 season, Chelsea cruised to a title win last season but all of it came crashing down this season, which clearly reflects the lack of sustainability that Mourinho’s sides are able to possess.
Mourinho either leaves a club brimming with pride and gilded with success (though Inter Milan steeply declined following his departure), or leaves them a laughing stock, with the latter true for Chelsea. This is a huge concern for Manchester United, a club that prides itself on stability and success.
Another thing to consider is Mourinho’s development of players (or lack of it) — he hardly nurtures young talent, unlike Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger. Aside from Kurt Zouma and Raphael Varane (highly rated prospects already who were bought), it’s hard to see who Mourinho has nurtured into stars.
It’s rare or next to impossible for Mourinho to bring in a player from the youth side into the senior side, such that they transform themselves and blossom into better players. This season itself with Chelsea’s dire results, Mourinho could have opted to bring in the kids but chose not to — he just doesn’t trust them.
Mourinho is also the kind of a manager who specializes in fielding specialized players ahead of creative players or players who stray forward to attack rather than dropping deep to defend. Accusations as to how he seems to end the careers of players (Kevin de Bruyne, Kaka, Juan Mata to name a few) may or may not be justified, but it’s his own way of imposing himself at a club. If he doesn’t adhere to his approach, there is no way he’ll flourish at a club.
United are a club which has a history of producing some of the biggest and most renowned players in the world — just take the class of ’92 as a prime example. They’ve engrained this habit for more than twenty years now and aren’t far behind the likes of Barcelona and Ajax in molding youngsters into heralded superstars. Bringing in Mourinho would all but end any chances for the likes of academy graduates, Jesse Lingard and James Wilson as well as the likes of the less hard-working players such as Mata — however, this method will guarantee success.
United fans have been agitated at the rigid, possession based playing style that Louis van Gaal employs — one that has often been deemed as ‘boring’, but one must note that Mourinho’s is in no way better. United fans themselves have accused Mourinho of sticking to an all-out defensive playing style. Although, it’s a bit more expansive than Van Gaal’s, involving swift counter attacking football, it’s not exactly what the Old Trafford faithful are accustomed to watching.
In the end, everything lies in the approach that the United board take — a long term solution or a short term one. Van Gaal has laid down a foundation decent enough for someone else to come in and bring back the glory days to the Theatre of Dreams and although, it’s been done at the expense of £250 million, it’s been done regardless.
Allowing Mourinho to impose himself over this sluggish and rather slow United side will take at least two transfer windows, if not one. Will he bring trophies by the end of his stint? Probably.
Part of Mourinho’s “philosophy” goes against the trademark United ideals and while appointing him will likely lead to success, it depends on what the board and what the fans want — are they ready to sacrifice their traditions to gain short term success with a manager likely to leave in a couple of seasons?
A year or two ago, maybe not, but given their recent performances, it definitely is more welcomed than before.