Judging Jose Mourinho’s first season at Manchester United as a failure if Manchester United lose to Ajax in the Europa League Final on the Wednesday 24th May 2017 could be seen as being narrow minded however some football pundits and fans see this statement as very fair, but many factors should be taken into consideration when truly judging the successes and failures of the 2016/2017 season.
Jose started his United career with a preseason tour of China. Mourinho who arrived after the tour had already been announced, was not overly keen due to the fixture schedule and conditions. During this busy time, Mourinho acted fast in the transfer market signing the Bundesliga player of the year Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Liga BBVA most promising young defender Eric Bailly and the Swedish giant Zlatan Ibrahimovic who he’d previously managed at Inter Milan where the two developed a great working relationship. However despite a hugely success transfer window which lead to many believing Manchester United were now favourites to regain the premier league title, the preseason tour as Mourinho feared was a complete disaster.
A 4-1 defeat to Borussia Dortmund started off the 2 game tour and 3 days later the proposed friendly against local rivals Manchester City was cancelled due to dangerous conditions following a monsoon. The tour was an embarrassment, however can not be blamed on Mourinho who always had his reservations. The tour however did show Mourinho that Manchester United were lacking firepower in the midfield. This led to Manchester United smashing the world record fee to re sign Paul Pogba for £89 million pounds who had originally left on a free transfer. The signing got every United fan excited and was a signing that everyone was crying out for since never replacing the quality of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes in centre midfielder.
The Premier League season started perfectly for Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United with 3 wins out of 3 games. with also winning his first trophy at Manchester United by defeating Leicester 2-1 to win the Community Shield. However the 4th game of the season was the local derby hyped up even more due to the preseason friendly being cancelled. The two clubs who were the bookies and footballs fans favourites to be fighting it out for the title before the season started faced each other at Old Trafford on 10th September 2016. A frustrating 2-1 defeat at home which many felt was due to poor refereeing and not taking our many chances would spell out an early indicator of how the frustrating season would play out for Manchester United.
After the Manchester City defeat the season which started optimistically began to derail and Manchester United then went onto only win one of the next 4 games, drawing against huge rivals Liverpool during this run which fans were unhappy about as they accused Mourinho of parking the bus and playing for the draw which is not in Manchester United’s philosophy. Then came Jose’s first game against the club who fired him the season after winning the title, Chelsea. The Chelsea game spelled out all the issues with the current Manchester United side with an early Chris Smalling mistake leading to a 30 second Pedro goal which was the fastest goal in the Premier League in the 2016/2017 season. This lead to Mourinho’s counter attacking tactics being ineffective. The game ended 4-0 to Chelsea with Chelsea scoring form 6 shots compared to United’s 0 goals form 16 shots.
After a humiliating defeat to his old side, Mourinho was branded ‘The Not So Special One’. His post match antics added even more pressure onto Jose with pundits saying he’s lost it. But then came a huge turnaround. Manchester United then went on a huge unbeaten run in the Premier League, Carling Cup, Fa Cup and Europa league. This was despite an ever growing injury list that caused some Manchester players to play 2 games a week causing even more injuries through fatigue.
By Christmas, Manchester United had gone 9 games unbeaten in the Premier League however drawing 4 games, being blamed to the hectic schedule and playing Thursday-Sunday. During his period Manchester United, qualified out of the Europa League group stage meaning Jose still had two methods of achieving Manchester United’s main aim of getting United back into the Champions League. Two months later United were still on an unbeaten run in the league, had reached the Carling Cup final and were still in the Europa League knockout stage and Fa Cup.
26 February 2017 Manchester United beat Southampton 2-1 to win Mourinho’s second trophy of the year, however United were knocked out of the Fa Cup 2 weeks later by Chelsea after Herrera was sent off. United lost 1-0 again with fans angry with the style of play. However due to injuries such as Ibrahimovic the top scorer, Jose was using the best of what was at his disposal. United continued their unbeaten run in the league but with only 4 wins out of the 9 and now 12 draws in the league, top 4 and automatic qualification for the Champions League was becoming very unlikely.
Jose’s attentions were now turned to winning the Europa League as the only way to progress into the Champions League, United lost the next two games in the league ending their 26 game unbeaten run which some considered the worst unbeaten run ever, due to United still being in 6th place in the league. A two legged semi final tie against Celta Vigo were now the biggest games in the the campaign. United won away 1-0 with a great Rashford goal but again United missed too many chances. The second leg was a tight affair with United luckily getting a 1-1 draw which has lead to Manchester United being in the Europa League Final in Stockholm against Ajax.
So after spending £150 million pounds, breaking the transfer record on Paul Pogba and being the Premier League title favourites before the campaign, is only finishing 6th in the league and winning 2 semi highly regarded trophies enough if Manchester United fail to win the Europa League and achieve the main goal and the start of the season.
Personally i feel Jose has been incredibly unlucky with injuries and despite spending £150 million he has only 4 players in the squad he wanted. These 4 players have arguably been United’s best players showing Jose has signed some world class players. With players like Rooney who have been a huge failure this season, which Jose may not have seen coming especially as he’s been a keen admirer in the past trying to sign him at Chelsea shows given time Jose could build a world class squad when he shifts the deadwood. On from last season every stat is up from chances created to clean sheets apart from chances taken and it isn’t Mourinho’s fault that the strikers have not taken the chances they’ve had. If United lose the final this season would have been a failure but I’m confident Jose has United going in the right direction unlike past managers such as David Moyes.