Journalist and close ally of Jose Mourinho, Duncan Castles, has launched a defence of the former Real Madrid manager’s methods and pointed out the progress Manchester United have made under him, as per Arab News.
Last week was a huge one for Manchester United, with three crunch fixtures at Old Trafford. They won two, in the Premier League against bitter rivals Liverpool and in the FA Cup quarter-finals against Brighton.
However, they lost arguably the most important, the Champions League last 16 tie against Sevilla, and the fallout was enormous. Mourinho’s approach to the tie was criticised and so was his response to that criticism.
Yet, Castles wants to point out that United have improved under Mourinho. They are second in the league, in the FA Cup semi-finals and have won two trophies already under the Portuguese.
He also moves to defend criticism of United’s lifeless style of play, stating that it is how the last two Premier League champions have played and that the Champions League hasn’t been won that way since 2011.
United have improved in terms of their league position, it looks as if Mourinho will ensure that the club qualifies for the Champions League again this season and could well win the FA Cup.
That represents a step forward from the reigns of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, but it is not enough. Mourinho was brought in to move United back to the top of English football and was given lavish spending power with which to do so.
He has come nowhere near a title challenge in either season and United’s style of play is still uninspiring and dour, with a group of elite forwards still, over a year and a half into his reign, largely playing like strangers.
United do not dominate big matches, and their record away from home against other teams in the top six does not stack up well. They needed to take the Sevilla match by the scruff of the neck but were dominated and roundly beaten by a side who then lost 2-1 to Leganes on Sunday.
There is the EFL Cup exit to Bristol City to consider, and Mourinho’s repeated outbursts; blaming the lack of spending, the fans, the players, the club’s “heritage” for being behind where he needs the club to be but taking no responsibility himself.
As Castles’ comments on United’s style of play, every team that has won the Champions League has shown greater panache, knowhow and technical ability than United have ever shown under Mourinho, regardless of their individual styles.
“A killer counterattack” may have won the last two Premier League titles but it will not win this season’s and, in any case, could anyone realistically claim that the current United side have a killer counterattack?
Pragmatism, in and of itself, is a viable strategy. But it means that when the results aren’t there – a title challenge, progression in the Champions League or a fluid side that is greater than the sum of its parts – there is nothing to fall back on. Mourinho’s United have moved forward, but not anywhere near far enough.