Winner of 8 league titles, 13 Cups, 2 UEFA Champions League titles and 2 Europa League titles with Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and to everybody’s surprise, Manchester United. Jose Mourinho is a serial winner. He has often been labeled fairly and sometimes unfairly as arrogant and defensive in his approach but he is scoring plenty of goals against Manchester United recently, at least figuratively.
He had mentioned repeatedly that his achievements at United were phenomenal given the circumstances. He won the Community Shield, the League Cup and the UEFA Europa League during his tenure at United which seemed ordinary by his standards but achievements nonetheless.
At the time, United fans and Mourinho’s critics were rather perplexed by his comments and expected him to do more and achieve more.
What United fans and Mourinho’s critics failed to understand was his message through these achievements. He was hinting at the struggles of United, there was a crack in the system and it kept getting wider. Among many reasons for this widening crack was United players’ mental strength and character. It was weak to say the least. They had outperformed themselves and were drained, they couldn’t cope with pressure.
Mourinho often stresses on mental strength and character because that shapes the team’s approach to every game.
Here are some examples of the message that he was trying to send when he was in charge and the importance of mental strength and character in the game:
Scott McTominay is the one that did everything
A player ready to play anywhere. He played in several positions during Mourinho’s time including a makeshift centre back, and has proven himself as a key man under Solskjaer but most importantly he spotted McTominay’s potential in him to make an impact. He was effective rather than beautiful on the pitch.
Speaking to Sky Sports, this is what McTominay had to say about Mourinho “He’ll always have a special place in mine and my family’s heart because he was the one who brought you in, he was the one who trusted you, he’s the one who had belief in you. I owe a tremendous amount of credit to him because if it wasn’t for him I might not necessarily be sitting in this seat.”
Paul Pogba is a double-edged sword
His inconsistent performances and lack of leadership on and off the pitch have hurt United in several ways. While Mourinho in the past has been accused of not being able to handle Superstars but Pogba was a totally different case because he is still failing to understand and deliver what the team needs from him but nobody has a doubt over his potential as proven when he plays for France.
The wrong motivation
This happens often in every big club when the manager gets replaced, there is a string of good performances under the new manager because players are under pressure to perform. It camouflages the real problems but only for a while. There was an intensity in United’s game when Solksjaer took over and it slowly died because the motivation to perform was different, it wasn’t just about winning, it was about proving that the previous manager was wrong which is never the right motivation in the long term and never lasts.
There are many other issues such as Ed Woodword’s involvement, lack of a sporting director, tactics and player selection but none of them are as important as mental strength and character of the players. United have lacked leadership and strong characters on the pitch, it’s what they need most, more than skill, more than ability. It’s their inability to grind a result or bounce back from losing positions which is the core issue that even Mourinho was trying to highlight during his time.
In the past, United had leaders such as Roy Keane, Paul Scholes who were instrumental in making men out of boys which is so critical for young players like Daniel James, Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Brandon Williams.
Who is shaping these players on the pitch?
The writer is Moiz Rangoonwala.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publication.