Is it time for Mourinho to take a break?

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In September 2016, after Manchester United collapsed in the final seven minutes, conceded two goals, and suffered a 3-1 defeat at Watford, we asked if Jose Mourinho has lost his touch. That loss started a sequence in which United won just two games, lost two and drew six of the 10 they played, then we asked another question. Then United went on a run, won 12 and drew eight of the next 20 league games. Two years later, the knives are out again; Mourinho and United have lost two of the first three games of the season, conceding six goals in the last two.

And it’s time to ask more questions of ‘The Special One’…

Many think Mourinho has lost his touch. Maybe…not. There is an old saying: “a good player cannot become bad overnight”. That is also true of coaches: a man as tactically adept as Mourinho, who has turned the study of opponents, and developing game-plans to counter their efficiency into an art, couldn’t have lost his touch that quick. And he did say to reporters after the Tottenham defeat, “we worked all week”. So, the effort is still there, but the results are not.

Some are blaming the poor early results on him out for criticizing his team before the league kicked off. And they may be correct. First, it is a poor workman that blames his tools; a great coach fashions a weapon (team) out of whatever he is given. That is what Diego Simeone does at Atletico Madrid every year, that is what Mauricio Pochettino is doing at Tottenham, and that is what is expected of Jose. It should also be noted that…

Smaller teams with ‘less talented players’ find ways to grind out results. Wolverhampton Wanderers stood toe-to-toe with the hugely talented Manchester City, earned a draw, and almost won the game. Is Nuno Espirito Santo a better coach than Mourinho? Even he would laugh at that suggestion, yet they did. So, we ask the next question…

Should Manchester United players be held accountable? The answer to that depends on which side of the divide you stand on the argument.

  • a. The players should be held accountable because they get paid millions to play the game, and like their counterparts from the Midlands, when you cross that white line and get on the pitch, it’s all you. But…
  • b. It is the job of the coach to find ways of motivating his players; the team that Sir Alex Ferguson paraded to win the last Premiership title was not a brilliant one, he lifted them with his personality; something Mourinho himself had done in the past with Porto, and with the Inter team that overachieved.

That then leaves us with a simple conclusion: the players, for some reason, are not responding to the Mourinho magic. It happened at Real Madrid, it happened at Chelsea and it’s happening now. Jose Mourinho has not lost his tactical edge; the players however, are not responding to his leadership style. The coach may have sensed this, as evidenced by his new approach: he actually sat till the end of the game, and praised his players after it!

But will that be enough? Can he right the ship the way he did in 2016, with an unbeaten run? One thing is sure: Mourinho needs to change his style if he wants to have another successful season, and if he wants to succeed at Old Trafford. And if he is not sacked, the special one may need to excuse himself at the end of the season, and re-invent himself.

 

 

 

 

 

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