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Old world tactics rarely prevail when it comes to modern football. The only time old school is cool is when it is considered retro – like an inside right position from the 1890s. Mourinho isn’t quite old school retro yet, but he’s definitely approaching that realm. He is a shadow of his former self – once a breath of fresh air in a world of football with established elites.
One by one he achieved the impossible dream with Porto, went on to work his magic at Chelsea, and then at Inter Milan. If not for the greatest team in the modern era at Barcelona, Mourinho would’ve been even more deadly at Real Madrid than he was. However, as tactics have evolved, Mourinho hasn’t. He claims that he is now “The Reformed One” after his barbaric lashing out at the media became something of a defining characteristic. Thank goodness he hasn’t brought that to United, or at least continued on from the earlier days in the season where United fans would cringe at every new example of Mourinho sensationalism.
Present day Mourinho is stretched. He has been forced to get defensive about United both on and off the field. Did the team lose their shooting boots first or was it Mourinho who lost his mojo? Who can say at this point except simply see where things stand. United are underdogs when they step on the field in important games – underdogs to their own mentality, the manager’s mentality. So the question is: can Mourinho evolve? Or is he now “the established elite” that is being toppled bysomething fresh?
Manchester United have a history of taking pragmatic approaches to stay ahead of the curve, whether Woodward buying established quality or Ferguson changing his staff to surround himself with new ideas. Mourinho in that sense is out of his depth so far. His defensive tactics in big games are not an embodiment of what Manchester United represent. He is doubting his own abilities and that has reflected in the profligate finishing of his attackers. There have been times this season where United have looked good, but there have been times where they have been limp, doing nothing particularly outstanding that might draw the “oohs” and “aahs” that encapsulated the Fergie era.
Mourinho will do well to win the Europa League against Ajax after employing a defensive approach on the pitch and in the press, and choosing to complain about the fixture lists before the dust had settled from the semi-finals. Please stop complaining about the fixtures (apart from in December – that’s legitimate). Also, this season the international breaks were cut down in frequency. Mourinho has no excuses, and December’s games were almost half a year ago.
If he fails in the Europa League after disregarding the Premier League, Mourinho will come under fire. Football is a tight game and United’s corporate deals are directly dependent on time and results. United’s history has never seen them as a through and through defensive team. “Swashbuckling”, and “wave after wave of attacks” are what characterized large parts of the last quarter century in the club’s history, even during difficult times. Playing style was essentially why LVG was sacked. Could Mourinho suffer the same fate?