Manchester United: 4 times Mourinho was out-thought in Europe

The Sevilla defeat exposed the manager’s tactical flaws. The game is increasingly leaving him behind.

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(Photo credit: Aleksandr Osipov)

Despite their domestic problems, some pundits argued Manchester United were genuine contenders for the Champions League, citing Jose Mourinho’s ability to devise a tactical masterclass over two legs.

There’s a logic to this – he has obvious pedigree. When the Portuguese coach led Inter Milan to the Champions League, it completed a treble, the only one in the history of Italian football. He crafted an exceptional team but got to the final after beating arguably the best team in history, Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, by virtue of one of the most effective displays of Catenaccio ever seen. 

That success came six years after he took Porto to Europe’s most prestigious trophy, outclassing Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United on the way. The only team in the last twenty years from outside Europe’s top five leagues to win it. 

In between, he changed the way football was played in England, dominating domestically with Chelsea. They only marginally missed out on two Champions League finals, both times being edged out by Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool. 

But Inter’s Champions League was in 2010. Mourinho has won trophies since then but he seldom masterminds European encounters anymore. He is out-thought a regularity that would have been unthinkable ten years ago.

He deserves credit for winning the Europa League last season but that was against a multitude of teams Manchester United have more quality than from front to back, not to mention a massive fiscal discrepancy. The need for a brilliant strategist is less pressing when you boast a better player in every position on the pitch, as he often did in the Europa League.

Nobody would argue Unai Emery is an elite-level coach, despite winning three consecutive Europa Leagues. There’s a big difference between in the tactical nous needed to compete for the two trophies and Mourinho finds himself slipping away from the elite.

Mourinho was once European football’s golden boy. But elite level football has moved on, and he has lost his edge. The likes of Diego Simeone, Massimiliano Allegri and Zinedine Zidane now stand where he once did, whilst Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have shown how to swashbuckle against second-tier European teams.

Here are four occasions he’s got it wrong:

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