Throughout the glittering career of Jose Mourinho, there has been a recurring theme; winning the domestic league title in his second season.
At Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea again, success has come his team’s way once the manager has had a full year in charge to take a look at what needs to be done, what needs to improve and what needs to stay the same.
On two of those occasions, a Champions League trophy was picked up for good measure too. Will this run be carrying on then this season at Old Trafford?
Time to assess the squad
The Portuguese has always looked at the players at his disposal in a cold and detached way, meaning that once he’s started working with them and seen what they can and can’t do, he will be ruthless with them.
This is why we saw the sales of players such as Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin and this summer, the departure of Wayne Rooney.
A lot of the deadwood is swept away, and often during the summer before his second full year, he makes a big signing, usually on a big, physical, attacking player, whether it’s Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, Diego Costa, or now, Romelu Lukaku.
Another thing Jose has always liked to do is bring in players he has worked with before, so he knows what they’re capable of and what they can bring to the table.
Having worked for some of the richest clubs out there has meant that he is more or less always able to bring them in, whether it’s Ricardo Carvalho, Paulo Ferreira, Michael Essien, Eto’o, Drogba or now Lukaku and Nemanja Matic.
“Nemanja is a Manchester United player and a Jose Mourinho player. He represents everything we want in a footballer; loyalty, consistency, ambition, team player,” said the Portuguese.
As the man said yesterday, he likes to have players that are ‘Jose Mourinho players’, men he can rely on, who can embody his spirit and carry out what he wants on the pitch. Usually by the second season, these players are in place.
All of the above seems to look good for United fans in the coming season, especially if he completes the signing of one more player that he wants, preferably a winger and quite possibly Ivan Perisic from Inter Milan.
A different Manchester United
However, there are a few signs that suggest that it may not come off. Firstly, with this United team he is starting off from a much weaker position than the one he had with other teams.
Porto in 2003, Chelsea in 2005 and Inter Milan in 2009 were all already the champions of their respective countries and were the dominant forces. Real Madrid in 2011 weren’t exactly minnows, having run Barcelona close in La Liga, a league where those two were far out in front of the rest.
Chelsea in 2014 did finish third in a much more competitive league, but they weren’t too far off the top and did make the semi-finals of the Champions League.
The Red Devils, by contrast, were 24 points behind Chelsea last year and will have a huge amount of ground to make up in a league where there are five other teams who could also feasibly win the title.
Is Mourinho past his best?
There has to be a doubt as to whether the old Mourinho magic is still there. He took a side that finished fourth and fifth, under the much reviled Louis van Gaal, to sixth place, even if he did win a couple of cup competitions (though van Gaal did win a cup of his own).
For much of last year he seemed grouchy and frustrated, almost tired. Perhaps the intensity at which he has worked for more than a decade is catching up to him.
Managers, like players, can’t be at their peak the whole time (unless you’re Sir Alex Ferguson). What will be interesting to see this year is whether we’ll see the return of the ‘Special One’.
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