When Jose Mourinho took charge of Manchester United in the summer of 2016, there was a certain expectation that the former Chelsea boss would turn the Red Devils into title contenders once again.
The expectations were justified because of Mourinho’s past record at his previous clubs, which shows the experienced boss as one of the modern greats of the managerial game.
Ferguson a hard act to follow
Despite Mourinho’s presence at Old Trafford, United have struggled to bring back the glory days. The team has improved since the Portuguese’s arrival, but they are nowhere near the same level as under the great Sir Alex Ferguson.
When the great Scot retired from the game, he left a giant pair of shoes to fill. The squad he left behind also had giant holes in too, despite winning the title in Ferguson’s final campaign.
The final title success was mostly down to Ferguson’s brilliant man-management and his sheer force of personality. Few football managers have that sort of effect at one club as Ferguson had at United.
The former Aberdeen boss was simply unique. There will never be another Alex Ferguson. His predecessors have struggled to come close matching him in any way.
Mourinho had the record and character to replace Ferguson
Jose Mourinho is a man that is famous for being a character and for his strong personality, much like Ferguson. The former Chelsea boss and the club from Manchester should have been a match made in heaven after the likes of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal faltered in the United hot seat.
Their records for winning silverware in the last decade alone should have made it a good fit. However, one thing the pair did not share was football philosophy. Mourinho is a pragmatic coach by nature.
United teams did not always play attacking expansive football under Ferguson but did for much of his tenure. The Scottish legend knew when to attack and when to use slightly more pragmatism in matches.
Mourinho has struggled to live up to his own reputation at United. For a man with such a big ego, it must hurt the Portuguese boss that his team are not challenging for the top-flight title. What makes things worse is Manchester City’s success across the city. United are not in the same league. Some will say that United have not spent the same money as City in the last few seasons. That would be right.
However, Liverpool look likely to challenge City for the title and they have not spent as much as the champions, or for that matter United in recent years.
United need to improve for top four
For me, looking at it from a neutral’s point of view at the start of the season I did not consider United as potential title challengers. I looked at City, Liverpool and even Chelsea due to their appointment of Maurizio Sarri as the main contenders.
The Red Devils have some quality players, but their summer recruitment was not great and Mourinho’s demeanour throughout was one of a dead man walking. It is only six games into the season. However, I doubt there are many United fans out there who believe they will win the Premier League title this season. Winning the title has to be their primary aim as a massive football club.
United look nowhere near good enough for that at the minute. In fact, the Red Devils need to be careful they do not slip out of the Champions League spots this season, as their recent form has been concerning.
The Red Devils are currently odds of 11/8 to finish in the Premier League top four this season, which makes them sixth favourites to clinch a Champions League spot.
I grew up with United dominating the Premier League and winning silverware. It is strange to see them in a sort of limbo at the minute. I am now wondering if we will ever see the Red Devils as such a dominant force in the future.