Manchester United fans must have looked on at the Monday night showdown between Chelsea and City with a degree of envy. It was less than a year ago that United would have found themselves in a Premier League table topping contest, but those days now seem long gone.
Instead of a title tilt, United are finding themselves heavily embroiled in a peripheral contest for that last Champions League place, how the mighty have fallen. But could this all have been different had they put their faith in the wily Portuguese tactician rather than the dour Scotsman they now have at the helm?
For many United fans Monday night represented a case of what might have been for them, seeing the magical Mourinho in action, a man surely with the touch to steady an ailing United ship and bring them back on course.
I don’t doubt Mourinho’s credentials, and clearly he would have been the better appointment at least in the short term, but for me it wouldn’t have made a lot of difference. United’s problems run a lot deeper than simply managerial, and to simply dispense with Moyes would be a clear oversight. Moyes’ tactics and selections may at times be quizzical, but for me he isn’t getting enough wrong alone to explain the worrying downturn in form.
The reality for United is that Ferguson in his latter days was holding together a side on the decline, something that he should be applauded and criticised for in equal measure. The managerial issue has been a fall for United’s problems; the deeper issue is a squad that is worryingly lacking in quality. Maybe you can blame Moyes for not averting the crisis, a bolder Mourinho may well have pressed the owners harder for the revamp they needed, but in the end the fault is at boardroom level as much as it is with the manager.
For all his magic I really doubt Mourinho could have done much more than Moyes with the current United squad. Lacking the quality in the centre of the park, their impressive attack unit has been stymied of any really service and given the weaknesses in an ageing backline you can start to see the problem.
I don’t doubt Mata’s quality, but was he really the pressing need at United?
This is actually where Mourinho would have seen a bit of sense. Signing defensive midfielders is never the most captivating of deals for fans, but someone in the Nemanja Matic mould could have had a far more profound affect on United’s season. United aren’t missing a top level manager, they are missing someone to actually co-ordinate improvements to their playing staff. Mourinho has always been a man to control everything of a footballing nature and maybe David Moyes has left too much up to an unconvincing Ed Woodward. I doubt we would have seen the current transfer window shambles under David Gill’s tenure.
I think United fans yearning for Mourinho are looking for the quick fix, a simple answer to the woe they now find themselves in. It isn’t that simple, and the current state of disarray has been building for a while now and it is a shame that those with power at the club couldn’t see it.
Mourinho’s appointment may well have necessitated a revolution at the club, transforming it from the verge of ruin, but based on squad alone the difference would have been negligible. Moyes is becoming an easy target and a scape goat for the chaos at United, those with genuine affection for the club should be venting their frustration elsewhere.