A few months ago, life at Manchester United wasn’t going particularly well for Jose Mourinho.
Accusations of ‘The Special One’ becoming The Outdated One’ were rife. In fact, it was the subject of one of FootballFanCast’s Big Talking Points and a slim majority of readers agreed with our motion.
But fast forward to the start of 2017 and the Red Devils are on a 13-game unbeaten run under the Portuguese – their last defeat coming at the start of November to Fenerbahce in the Europa League – including a streak of six straight Premier League victories.
And the former Chelsea gaffer certainly earned his wages in the 2-0 win over West Ham yesterday, making three substitutions in the first 20 minutes of the second half that completely changed the complexion of the match.
Of course, Mourinho was infinitely aided by some dodgy officiating; Mike Dean produced a shock red card in the first half to send Sofiane Feghouli for a very controversial early shower, whilst Zlatan Ibrahimovich’s win-securing goal should have been ruled offside.
Nonetheless, as the above numbers combining all their efforts show, the three men Mourinho introduced made all the difference. Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford combined to score the opener and despite being on the pitch for just half an hour, the latter was Gary Neville’s Man of the Match.
Likewise, although perhaps a less obvious influence on the outcome, defender Chris Smalling helped secure things at the back and rule out any chance of a ten-man comeback from the Hammers.
Mourinho still may be uncertain about what his strongest starting XI actually is, but the good news for United fans is that he’s not only spotting problems, but also finding solutions before the final whistle.