For the first time in his career, Jose Mourinho joining a new club doesn’t fill everyone involved with confidence that yesterday’s problems will disappear. Manchester United are reeling from three difficult years by their own standards, and another one of subpar results under a manager that’s used to immediate success will be disappointing, to say the least.
Mourinho doesn’t always win a championship on the first go. At Real Madrid, he only won the championship in his second season with the club. The same happened at Chelsea 2.0, finishing third in year 1. Considering that Manchester United failed to make the Champions League, a return to the top 4 will be satisfactory, but the expectations from many are a little bit more than that: Staying in the title race until the very end sounds a bit more like it.
So far, in terms of signing, there’s been some improvement: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the great winner of championships, has arrived, threatening to take away the crown from Eric Cantona, although this isn’t going to be as easy as playing in the Serie A and Ligue 1, unless Ibrahimovic truly is a giant among tiny footballers.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan arrives in the Premier League three years after Liverpool failed to sign him. It took him some time to bring his scoring and vision to Dortmund, and like many players making the transition from Bundesliga to Premier League, the difference in defense quality should be noted, putting a question mark above his head, at least until he starts showing that €42 million wasn’t overpaying for him.
Everyone is still waiting for that big Paul Pogba signing. Some would say it’s more of a matter of making statements, showing that they’re on par with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich when it comes to attracting the best players. But Manchester United have never been at their best when going after the most expensive players in the market, not when Ferguson was in charge. Signing the best in the Premier League, while adding younger or missing pieces from outside the UK has been more of the M.O, which of course is very different from how Mourinho likes to operate.
The biggest test for Mourinho will probably be split in two: Figuring out how to handle Wayne Rooney, who looked like a washed up player every time he takes the pitch, striker or midfielder. The other will be his handling of the young talents on the team. Mourinho has become quite touchy on the subject, but he’ll be challenged by the media again and again, because Manchester United is very different from Chelsea. It’s not just about results, but about style, and who plays for the team.
Mourinho rarely changes. He comes storming in, cuts down the squad, adds some expensive pieces, and goes on a wild, two-three year ride, before everyone is sick of seeing his face in the dressing room. He wins a title or two, and is off with his ego to somewhere else. For the first time in over a decade, it won’t be surprising if his two-year formula is broken, and the departure and ugly farewell will happen a lot sooner.