Have Manchester United Actually Gotten Worse Under Jose Mourinho?
With an influx of new managers and top-tier talent, this season of the Premier League was anticipated to be one of the most exciting title races in years. The hype for Manchester United was specifically strong -- as it often is -- thanks to takeover by Jose Mourinho and the financial backing the club gave him this summer.
But the results and performances have not come through. Certainly, at least one or two clubs with extensive renovation had to stumble with so many of the top EPL sides undergoing big changes last summer, but United's current issues seem eerily similar to the ones under former manager Louis Van Gaal. They haven't put together consistent performances, and team cohesiveness still seems to be lacking -- and a tactically brilliant manager now finds himself unable to build momentum.
At this point last season, the Red Devils had 21 points through 11 matches as opposed to the 18 that United currently have through the same amount of games. Van Gaal -- despite his side's playing some boring football, at times, last season -- also had some stellar offensive performances, such as a 3-0 drubbing of Everton.
Mourinho has not encountered such victories, but he has a few two-goal victories in Manchester so far. The instinctive argument is that Mourinho's defensive prowess and focus could likely be representative of that. However, that doesn't really work in the context of performance under both managers. Through eight games, this year's team appears to be worse across the board.
|Through 11 Games||Goals For||Goals Against||Differential||Clean Sheets|
Furthermore, United's three clean sheets this season have come against Liverpool, Burnley and Hull City. Holding the Reds to zero goals -- in a game where United more or less parked the bus -- is certainly impressive, but the other two come against teams in the EPL that rank in the bottom five in goals scored.
Ultimately, Van Gaal's team could not maintain the fast start highlighted above, but the comparison is somewhat telling of how peculiar United's performance has been so far this season. The Red Devils have less points, a worse defense and a team that doesn't seem to be much better than they were at the beginning of the season.
This also goes against precedent Mourinho has set in his past. Earlier this year, I wrote about what Mourinho could bring to United in his first season, due to him bringing home a piece of silverware in each of his first seasons at a new club throughout his career. However, he has not enjoyed a similar start in Manchester red.
This beckons a legitimate question: Are United worse this season under Mourinho than last season with LVG?
There are a lot of matches yet to be played this year, but based off the numbers above, the answer so far is yes.
What's really puzzling is that, on paper, this season's United side is much more talented than the squad the Red Devils rolled out a year ago. The immense quality of talent via midfielder Paul Pogba, striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a mix of new and experienced talent means that United go into each match with a chance to win. Plenty of examples, such as Leicester's dream season this past year, prove that talent isn't everything, but it certainly helps.
It also says something about Mourinho. This is arguably the most talented squad United have seen in years, and Mourinho, who has won the league twice (both with Chelsea), is unable to put it together. The big three of Pogba, Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have not inspired, or, in Mkhitaryan's case, played much at all in the league.
Perhaps it is too early to call. The Red Devils are mixing in a lot of new players into a new system, plus they're having to deal with club legend Wayne Rooney's demotion from a full-time role.
United have sunk far too much money for a lack of results to translate to major change, but they may also feel that Mourinho will need to prove himself without too much support in the winter window.
Alex Ferguson's departure undoubtedly left a hole in the club, and David Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho have been unable to fill it. There is still plenty of time for Mourinho to right the ship, but the shadow of "Fergie" continues to lurk. If United doesn't turn around their current form, their struggles are only going to be magnified even more.