Chutzpah! Now there’s a word eternally associated with Manchester United and Jose Mourinho. At least, for the latter, in the earlier days of his managerial career. It’s why many ”Einsteins” have long thought that he two were meant for each other. Jose Mourinho’s employment at Manchester United last July was therefore lauded as one of the greatest marriages of the modern game. Finally gotthe right fit for a club of United’s stature since the fiery Ol’ Scott called time on his gum.
Nine league games into this marriage and the post mortems have been justifiably brutal. It’s not as it was thought to become at Old Trafford and neither is it as it should be. It was all supposed to kick off in gear five at least until there was no more gas in the tank so as to give way to another Mourinho self-implosion…somewhere along his third season.
Intriguingly though, there has been more than the suggestion so far that the current Manchester United manager is not the same as the one that initially graced English football all those years ago. With every passing game, it is being schooled into the minds of the arm chair viewers that there is a modern wave of football management that has overtaken the skills of the Portuguese so much so that he is soon to be confined to the class of the dinosaurs.
The wonder is whether Jose Mourinho has failed to come to terms with the expected behaviour of a Manchester United manager vs the character that defines Jose Mourinho. We are led to believe that it is this particular facet that caused the club to get cold feet whenever the decision to hire him reached the Board. That therein the calm body of a man who has looked assured in if not ponderous is a fiery clash of personalities. The desire to look like a Manchester United manager and the desire to be himself so as to get his players rallying to the cause of the club.
Is it that he, like Wayne Rooney, simply has too many miles on the clock or that he lives in fear about his personality in what could yet be his last big club job? Maybe it’s neither.
Here is Manchester United after nine games with the same number of points they did at this stage under David Moyes. The optics are bad. Really bad if you especially factor in the quality at his disposal. But the case can be made that Manchester United are simply victims of bad optics.
In the league this season, the club’s only poor results were at Watford and at home against Stoke. All the title contenders this season have already had at least a couple of stinkers in ”winnable games.” Jose’s problem is that the nine games feature three games against title rivals against whom the club has not looked better than their opponents.
The accusation is that United are less of a team than their title rivals. Perhaps so. But to conclude that Jose has not made this his team is to quickly forget that the ”dead” fixture at Anfield was evidence that he can get his team to play in a manner he wants to play so as to achieve the result he needs in the big games. The problem he faced at Stamford Bridge was that the game didn’t start like ordinary football games do at 0-0. United were against the tide before they registered a touch on the ball.
Like we’ve seen all too often, the club has suffered in each of the last three seasons when they’ve had to chase games. Under Sir Alex, going behind as early as they did at Chelsea was not uncommon but the manager’s personality usually won the game for the club. It’s a resolve and spirit that has been lost on the club for quite a while.
As such, United only plays with genuine confidence when they are at par or leading in games. It is noticeable for instance that in the games against Leicester City and Fernabache that rank as the highest score victories so far, there is not much about the confidence of the side until United got infront. At Chelsea therefore, United were confidence short from the off.
The buck, as always stops with the manager. Only he can build the confidence in his players. He has pointed to a seemingly comfortable run of games in which the club are expected to pick up the lion’s share of points. Indeed a trio of wins here and there could mean the world in this season’s premier league considering that United have picked up two points in six games and yet are only six points off the top. However, the challenge this season will not be how many points you are off the top but how many teams are ahead of you. For United, that number currently stands at six. That is the true measure of the club’s woeful run of form heading into the 10th league fixture of the season.
The job at hand is to put up a run of results before winter that will significantly reduce the traffic ahead. In the new year, it’s one thing surging past one or two teams ahead of you but it’s a difficult ask all together getting past six! The time to restore that Chutzpah is now.