Jose Mourinho's waning managerial powers, not Manchester United's lack of 'football heritage' behind club's struggles
A look at Jose Mourinho's 'football heritage' in the same time frame as he evaluated United's suggests his managerial powers are waning.
"I am a very lucky guy and I am really happy to be what I am," Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said ending a 12-minute long monologue ahead of his side's FA Cup quarter-final clash against Brighton and Hove Albion. But more significantly, it came a couple of days after United suffered a humiliating Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla at Old Trafford.
Having won league titles in four different countries, Champions League crowns with two different teams, and several cup winner's medals to go with it, Mourinho's pride can be excused.
Little that transpires hereafter in the Portuguese manager's career will change the fact that he will be remembered as one of the most remarkable managers, football has ever seen. Yet, his time at Old Trafford has so far divided opinions.
Mourinho has a history of being obnoxious, especially during conversations with the media. The episode on Friday, where he questioned Manchester United's "football heritage", certainly falls into that bracket. More than rival fans, the Old Trafford faithful would feel irritated by the way their manager publicly highlighted the shortcomings of the club in the past few years to justify his own failings.
The Portuguese received criticism for the manner of defeat against Sevilla as many fans believed that the team's playing style and the level of performance did not suit a club of United's stature. The 55-year-old, thus, in that 12-minute long tirade made no attempts of hiding his disagreements with those set of supporters as he spelt out how the club had been failing to meet the required standards for many years before his arrival.
While Mourinho was only stating plain facts about the club's recent past, the use of those facts and stats was highly selective.
"In the last seven years, Manchester City was champions twice and if you want to say three times because they will be in one more week, two, three or four (weeks) and they were second twice. That's heritage (sic)," the Portuguese said hinting that City were a stronger force than United when he took over the reins at Old Trafford.
However, for all of City's higher-ranked finishes, at the time when Mourinho took charge in the neighbourhood, City were almost at the same level as United. In the season before he was appointed, both United and City finished with 66 points with only goal difference handing City a place in the Champions League ahead of United. The Red Devils won the FA Cup under Louis van Gaal, while City bagged the League Cup. In the Champions League, the Citizens went further than United, with Manuel Pellegrini's side reaching the semi-finals as their rivals bowed out in the group stage.
In the 2016/17 season, new manager Pep Guardiola led Manchester City to a third-place finish, nine points and three places ahead of Mourinho's United. It has to be noted that the Citizens' net spend in that campaign was £35 million more than that of the Red Devils. However, if the squad recruitment cost to points earned ratio is to be compared, City had the better numbers with Guardiola's side spending £5.82 million per Premier League point earned compared to United's £7.57 million for a point.
In the current campaign, Mourinho's men have managed to significantly reduce the deficit in cost per points earned despite being 16 points behind City at this stage. United have secured a Premier League point for £10.13 million, while City have spent £9.55 million to earn a point. However, that is more down to the Sheikh Mansour-owned outfit outspending their city rivals by £119 million rather than United improving their performances.
The £57 million signing of Aymeric Laporte in the winter took City's spending this season to £269 million and Guardiola now has the most expensive squad in the world ahead of Paris Saint-Germain, United and Barcelona. As things stand, the difference between City and United in squad recruitment costs is £115 million, which is almost equal to the difference in net spends made by the two clubs this season.
While it may not be wrong to say that City have bought the Premier League title, the question is that should United be 16 points behind City? The answer is no. If you assume that United spent the same amount of money as City have (£9.55 million per point), then they would have been approximately 12 points behind the leaders, and not 16. So the £115 million cost difference is less when compared to the 16 point difference between the two sides in the table
It shows that Guardiola has been more successful in making the most of the resources at his disposal than Mourinho over the two seasons. Therefore, with both managers starting off at nearly the same point, United's woes have little to do with the "football heritage" that Mourinho referred to on Friday.
The Portuguese also pointed out that the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Fernandinho, who have been at the forefront of City's revolution this season, were present in City's squad when Guardiola took over, a luxury that he was not afforded at United.
"Do you know what is also heritage? It's that (Nicolas) Otamendi, Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho, (David) Silva, (Raheem) Sterling, (Sergio) Aguero - they are investments from the past, not from the last two years. From the past," Mourinho stated.
While what Mourinho said was once again true, the performances of the City players he mentioned has significantly improved under new management. The same cannot be said about some of United's stars that Mourinho inherited. And if money is a criteria to judge the quality of a player, then the Portuguese inherited a squad which cost more than the City side Guardiola inherited, making the comments about City having a stronger football heritage that United when he arrived at Old Trafford even more baseless.
Compared to the six goals and three assists in his debut league campaign with City, Sterling has shown rapid growth under Guardiola. Sterling's tally rose to seven goals and 14 assists in Guardiola's first season before hitting his peak in the ongoing season where he already has 15 goals and 11 assists to his name. Moreover, some of Sterling's strikes that came late in matches have been worth their weight in gold.
Silva, City's old warhorse, had scored just twice in the season before Guardiola took over. But in the two campaigns that have followed, he has not only played more minutes but has also made them count. In 2016/17, he scored four goals while assisting nine while in the current season, he has already notched up eight goals and created nine.
De Bruyne, who has been City's creator in chief since joining them in 2015, has shown improvement, but the biggest positive has been centre-back Nicolas Otamendi. Guardiola's tweak in tactics has allowed City to use his ball skills to build the attacks. The Argentine has made the most number of passes in the league and also has the most touches. Last season, he was 20th and 18th respectively in those charts.
With Otamendi now playing in a system that suits him, where he has good protection from Fernandinho, and also the insurance from the new full-backs, the Argentine has managed to reduce his errors. City have kept 15 clean sheets already this season, compared to just 12 in the entire term last time out. And Otamendi has played a big part in it.
In comparison, the graph of some of United's players isn't as impressive. Marcus Rashford who is among United's most promising young footballers performed better in his debut season under Van Gaal than he is now despite having two years of Premier League experience under his belt. In the 2015/16 season, Rashford had five goals and two assists having played 855 minutes. This campaign, the Englishman has only scored six goals and made five assists in 1435 minutes of football.
United's big-money recruit Paul Pogba — still the most expensive player in the Premier League — hasn't been able to replicate his Serie A heroics in England. In the two season in the league, the Frenchman has just eight league goals to his name. However, his ability to create has improved substantially this season with his assists tally rising to 12 from four last year. Despite being an integral part of his side last season, Mourinho hasn't been impressed with Pogba's performance this season and he has often started the Frenchman on the bench in recent games.
Anthony Martial is perhaps one of the more improved players under Mourinho this season with the former Monaco man netting nine goals and assisting six times this season. His goal tally is still two short of his best return he achieved in his debut season under Van Gaal. However, his game time is less than half of what it was under Van Gaal.
It's a stellar recovery from his four goals and six assists last season, but Martial still hasn't cemented a place in Mourinho's starting XI and is not exempt from losing his place to rotation.
The self-proclaimed Special One has always thrived on having a galvanised group of players backing a cause set by the manager. In the past, he has always made his teams to completely surrender to his tactics, footballing philosophy and words, but looking at the current United side, that doesn't seem to be the case. They don't seem to have bought what Mourinho wants them to do on the football pitch.
"I would give everything for him. I would leave that pitch in a coffin for him and every player felt the same," former Chelsea captain John Terry, who won 3 Premier League titles under Mourinho, once said of the Portuguese. One wonders whether a few years down the line, any of the current United players would have something similar to say about Mourinho. And the answer you will get more often than not is a no.
So has Mourinho lost his mojo? A look at his "football heritage" in the same time frame as he evaluated United's, suggests his managerial powers are waning. One league title and two finishes outside the top four in the last six years is very poor when you compare it with what he achieved before it. Mourinho won the Champions League with Inter Milan to go with two Serie A titles and led Real Madrid to their first La Liga title in three years.
His current state at United slightly mirrors his third season in his second spell at Chelsea where an often outspoken Mourinho lost the dressing room, and especially the creative players for making them play in a system that they don't seem to enjoy playing in.
While his methods still remain effective with United on course for a top-two finish for the first time since 2013, he no longer delivers the results that made the top clubs around Europe avidly chase his signature.
Mourinho is in need of urgent re-invention if he has to get back to the pedestal he once occupied. With Guardiola and Co raising the bar with every passing week, Mourinho needs to look into the same mirror he wants the club, its fans and its players to look into.
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