Is Man United Boss Jose Mourinho Getting the Credit He Deserves?
Image Credit: Catherine Ivill / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images
The Manchester United manager has faced criticism since the Red Devils slipped behind rivals Manchester City in the Premier League title race.
There’s an old saying that you can only beat what’s in front of you.
Seven games in to the Premier League season, Manchester United had won six, drawn one, lost none and scored 21 goals. The Red Devils were ruthless in shutting down games and killing off tiring opponents.
At that time, Manchester City had exactly the same record - only they had scored one goal more. Pep Guardiola had a different approach, completely controlling the tempo of matches with the technique and artistry of his team’s passing and movement.
Many were praising Guardiola for City’s electric style of play which was revolutionising what we’ve seen in the Premier League. Some were suggesting that, as a manager, Mourinho wasn’t in the same league.
In the four games that followed, United drew at Liverpool, lost at Socceroo star Aaron Mooy’s Huddersfield and suffered defeat at Chelsea. Suddenly, United couldn’t beat what was in front of them.
The one match they did win in that run of fixtures was against another manager hailed as a ‘visionary’, even by a club legend of their rivals, Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur.
Ahead of United’s 1-0 victory over Spurs, Mourinho let off steam at the media and addressed what he felt was unfair criticism aimed at his tactics.
"I think that probably 25 trophies is the line that people made about a successful manager," said Mourinho, who 'surprisingly' has won exactly 25 trophies.
"Some others need 25 trophies to reach that level. Some others need four. Some others, they need 12. Some others, they need 15. Some others need 24.
"I have 25 but I still need one more. So maybe when I win one more trophy than 25 I have a little bit of credit but that's not a problem."
Count your medals
Mourinho’s stats cannot be doubted. The fact is that Pochettino has not won any trophies as a manager. Guardiola has won 21 at the highest level, as has Arsene Wenger - all with Arsenal.
Mourinho’s 25 across five clubs is an astonishing achievement. But after a 1-0 defeat against 2017 Premier League champions Chelsea, there will be more criticism heading his way.
Discussion about what is the best scheme to win football matches can continue forever. The fact is United trail City by eight points as of mid-November. Spurs are also now chasing City by that same margin - eight points. Maybe Mourinho has a point about why zero-trophy Pochettino is being praised while his 25-trophy method is being critiqued?
Mauricio Pochettino has now lost more games (10) to Jose Mourinho than any other manager in his career.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 28, 2017
Starting to sting. pic.twitter.com/NBcUhrKoIe
Back to the history books
Mourinho was right to count trophies - but perhaps it’s about their clubs more than individuals. Manchester United has the record for the most titles in English football, 20, but none since the departure of club icon Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013.
Certain expectations come with that, the type which hastened the departures of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal.
City are enjoying the most successful period in their history, with two of their four league crowns arriving in the past four years. Tottenham have won the title twice before, in 1951 and 1961. During his three years in charge, Pochettino has taken Spurs closer than they have been for decades.
Many would agree that Guardiola and Pochettino are leading their teams on an upward curve. Whether the same can be said about Mourinho at Manchester United is another question. And it’s a question that trophy cabinets cannot answer.