Mourinho’s apathy is the contagion of Manchester United’s problems
As is always the case with Jose Mourinho, opinions were divided - admittedly in favour of the Special One - when he was appointed Manchester United boss in the summer.
Out of the doldrums of Louis Van Gaal and into the light of one of the most successful managers of all-time. Yet the instant Mourinho impact is not forthcoming, with there still being some way to go before they can become close to calling themselves title contenders.
Mourinho has lost thirteen of his last twenty-eight matches as a manager and even has a worse record at this stage of the season than United flop David Moyes in his single season with the club. The deeper we delve into the campaign the more and more it seems Mourinho has lost touch with the modern game.
Long since gone are the days where you could spend millions on the top players and guarantee success in the Premier League - as was the case upon his arrival at Chelsea. Both the financial gap and quality differential between teams in the league are reducing at an alarming rate for Mourinho, who has yet to establish the flat-track bully element to this current team.
The best coaches in world football are now not only able to attract the top talent, but are also then able to make them better players. Just from looking at the Premier League, Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp all have that trait within them, working meticulously with their players to improve them and take them to the next level.
Upon arriving at Bayern Munich under Guardiola, winger Douglas Costa opened up on his first exchange with his new manager.
"When I arrived at Bayern he asked me: 'How are you? Are you ready to learn how to play football?'," Costa said.
"Before, I thought the coach's job was just to set up the team. However, with Guardiola it's something different."
How many players can say the same about Mourinho? The Portuguese boss has made a career from assembling a squad of multi-million pound players that are able to fit a system, although how much the players individually progress in another matter.
That’s what makes the Mourinho appointment so contradictory. For every finished article in this squad, there is another bludgeoning talent. For every Zlatan Ibrahimovic, there is a Marcus Rashford. For every Wayne Rooney, there is an Anthony Martial.
The nurturing and development process of young players is one which in the past Mourinho has taken no real interest to in previous jobs. He has consistently and unreservedly gone with tried and tested throughout his career, although much of this current squad is yet to reach that level.
Paul Pogba is a mercurial talent but is consistently being used out of position, whether it be part of a holding pair in midfield or as a number ten. Finding a system and formation which supplements the world’s most expensive player is paramount to the success of Mourinho long-term.
That said, the relationship with his players already looks a strenuous one. His treatment of Luke Shaw post-defeat to Watford shocked a number of his squad, whom had great empathy for the youngster who knowingly played through a groin strain.
Losing the dressing room at Chelsea, amongst other things, ultimately cost Mourinho his job and there is no obvious, public showing that the United squad have taken to their manager quite in the same way as John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba in 2004. This is a team playing with little freedom and are still looking to get over three years of underachievement and disappointment.
Mourinho reflects the aura of a man who has simply fallen out of love with his job. Like a primary school teacher who woke up one morning and realised they don’t like children. The enjoyment of the process appears to have been completely drained from the man who will undoubtedly be considered one of the greatest of his generation in the profession.
Coming into this weekend’s fixture with Swansea, United sit 8th in the table and below Watford, with newcomers Burnley now just a point behind the former perennial title winners. A win at the Liberty Stadium is an absolute must for Mourinho, for whom scrutiny would reach an all-time high should he fail to do so, with United currently without a win in their previous four league games.
The once most colourful, extravagant and self-righteous firework of a manager is losing his spark, and fast, with it really now being a case of now or never if he ever is to return to his once prestigious level.