Has the Mourinho gamble paid off?
Reds took a risk appointing Mr Blue
Manchester United held on to edge out La Liga side Celta Vigo on aggregate to reach the final of the Europa League. A massive effort for The Red Devils, and one that strengthens their push for Champions League football next season. They’ll now face Ajax in the final.
A great result, and fantastic for English football, but when stripped back to the bare result it was another low-scoring draw United fans had to endure, as manager Jose Mourinho continues to change the very mindset of the club.
The board at Old Trafford raised a few eyebrows when looking to Chelsea legend Mourinho to lead the club back to the glory days. It was a gamble, and one they could ill-afford to lose following the post-Fergie years, but has it paid off?
Draws stunting United’s progress
The drama of the Sir Alex Ferguson days are gone. During the Scotsman’s famous era Manchester United became a major force in European football, and could never be written off with any real confidence, renowned for scoring late winners in ‘Fergie Time’. Not now, under Mourinho they are a lot more difficult to beat, and a lot less exciting going forward.
There can be no doubt the Portuguese legend has steadied the red ship, but they go into game 36 of the season with a record reading 17 wins against 14 draws and four defeats. No side in the current top-four has lost fewer matches, leaders Chelsea losing five, City on six. That’s further evidence, if fans needed it, of what could’ve been if the side were a bit more ruthless in the final third.
Failure to finish
That 1-1 with Celta Vigo was their 11th even finish of the year. Eight of those have ended in a two-goal draw, ending that way against Stoke, Bournemouth and Swansea. Each saw United pass up a number of clear-cut opportunities to win the match.
Mourinho called a 1-1 finish with Liverpool at Old Trafford back in January – Ibrahimovic cancelling out an opener from Milner – a frustrating, but enjoyable watch. They ended that day with the lion’s share of possession, but put just three of nine shots on target. That tells the story of their season.
In a 1-1 finish away to Anderlecht last month, The Special One chose to criticise his squad in public, telling the media he had no other word for his attackers than sloppy.
Jose chasing perfect end to the season
The gaffer was in high spirits after watching is side reach the final of the Europa League, telling fans he was targeting a perfect end to the season. That involves, in his opinion, winning Europe’s second-string competition and qualifying for the Champions League.
There has been little mention of that top-four finish this year. A tactical approach, designed to soften the blow for fans? Perhaps, but with three games left and only four points to find to match Man City, it would be a brave punter to put a line through Mourinho’s chances of pulling off another upset.