Mourinho’s reaction to Manchester United’s surrender in injury time at Leicester a couple of weeks ago showed his true inner-self again. The one that cannot stop criticising his players (luckily that time there was no referee to point a finger at) and tries to leave the impression his ideas are never at fault, but the interpretation of them by the men on the pitch are solely the responsible for losing points.
His approach at the King Power Stadium that day has little to blame though. Indeed Leicester’s first goal occurred when almost all Manchester United had packed the opposition box and were punished on a Foxes-like counterattack. Awareness was the key factor missing. This time it wasn’t the case of a shy team that was retained in its own half fearing the worst when they lost possession.
That day we all knew the players let him down with “childish decisions” in front of goal and making a “joke” when organising to defend the last ball of the match, but one way or another the outcome didn’t vary that much compared to the ones against Manchester City and Bristol City before that game and the two other draws afterwards.
Agains Everton in the last Premier League match, Manchester United were rescued by the amazing goals scored by Martial and Lingard, otherwise another single point might have been picked.
Mourinho expects to have true leaders in his side who could cope with moments of great responsibility when, like he says, he cannot stop the game and give a team talk for the last two minutes. With a John Terry at the heart of the defense, he might think, Leicester’s equaliser would have never been conceded, or with Azpilicueta on the pitch then Riyad Mahrez wouldn’t have had the chance to run so freely in Foxes first goal.
Mourinho has his pre-designed style carved through the years, one that has turned closed-minded, and he believes playing that way he can win the Premier League title as he did in his second spell at Chelsea. However, he is starting to feel the players he has at his disposal at United don’t fit that approach and they are going nowhere. That’s why he has started to complain about Manchester City being able to pay higher transfers fees, despite United’s vast resources at his disposal.
There is a big component of lack of self-happiness in lacking that same joy about a squad filled with his signings, that surely might practice a better and more rewarding football than the one that left them in the sixth position last season and has them now 15 points behind leaders Manchester City.
If Mourinho were not so unhappy with his recent past he would feel more in the position of finding his previous-self, the one that adapted at Inter Milan and Real Madrid when things were not going according to plan and switched the way they attacked and defended to become league champions.
But the post-derby episode, when he couldn’t resist Manchester City players celebrate the win, shows clearly he cannot give others what he lacks in first place. He is feeling closer than anyone else the impact of Guardiola’s success and that’s tearing him away.
The least we should expect to happen is a change in Mourinho’s ideas. He no longer practices that free-flowing football his first Chelsea team were known for, let alone the ultra-offensive line-ups he employed at Inter Milan in his second and last season to secure a treble. Right now Mourinho is a one-plan man and if his players don’t align accordingly, he will just try to replace them.
But the clock is ticking. He won’t have the same seven years Sir Alex Ferguson had to win his first league title and even though this is not perhaps the set of players he would like to have, it’s the one he needs to try to be champion with. That he will follow this or not is a different story.
Alejandro Pérez is the author of the book “More than 90 minutes”, where you can find deep analysis about Europe’s most important teams and managers. It is available here in the UK: http://amzn.to/2o0jsSD