So Mourinho’s coming, but who will join him?

February 18, 2016 Tags: , , Reads 16 comments
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There are few certainties in life. Death, taxes and José Mourinho becoming the next manager at Old Trafford are three of them. The Portuguese’s long awaited arrival in Manchester to secure his dream job seem a foregone conclusion, and barring another Ed Woodward inspired screw-up, he will likely take charge this summer. Who needs who more – manager or club – is rendered irrelevant this point; Mourinho will be the United manager sooner or later. But what will his Manchester United look like?

Another rebuild awaits the Red Devils, and Mourinho will rebuild Old Trafford in his own image. It is hard to envision that he will take the job without the full authority to do so. It will start in his backroom, where Louis van Gaal’s Dutch backroom staff are unlikely to continue if the veteran is granted an early retirement. Key confidants of Mourinho, such as Rui Faria, Silvino Louro and others, are very likely to join him at Old Trafford.

Then what of Ryan Giggs? That is a key question of the Portuguese’s potential reign. Mourinho has embraced former players before as his assistants – Aitor Karanka at Real Madrid, for example – but would the Welshman be willing to be an assistant again after being touted as Van Gaal’s successor for so long? Giggs ego would take a battering, leaving the Welshman to potentially seek pastures anew. It is a great unknown and this may also mean Woodward is finally relieved of footballing duties, with Mourinho or a Director of Football rightfully taking charge after years of disastrous leadership.

Tactics and personnel changes

Mourinho’s tactical set up is likely to remain the same. The defensively solid 4-2-3-1 that still allows plenty of width is the formation he is likely to employ – one he used at both Real Madrid and Chelsea. David De Gea’s future is uncertain, but with Jorge Mendes representing both Mourinho and De Gea the world’s leading agent may convince the Spaniard to remain in Manchester. Sergio Romero’s year long stay in Manchester is likely to end in the summer, with an experienced back-up likely to arrive to relieve De Gea.

The Portuguese is fond of strong, pressing full backs. This means Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw are likely to be first choice next season, fitness permitting for the injury-ridden pair. There has to be some hope that Mourinho’s spell at Chelsea has humbled him somewhat, and at Old Trafford he may be more relenting when it comes to playing youth. If so, Guillermo Varela and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson are likely to provide backup for the first XI having proven themselves as capable this season.

Central defence is a real issue for United, and for a manager of Mourinho’s style new arrivals are certain. High-class central defenders are the bedrock of all the Portuguese’s great teams, which means Woodward is going to have to seriously open the chequebook to sign at least one target. Raphael Varane is unlikely to leave Real Madrid now that Zinedine Zidane has taken charge. John Stones was chased by Mourinho last summer, but Aymeric Laporte is a logical target.

Laporte, yet another Mendes client, has a €50 million release clause – with United’s spending power it makes far too much sense for him not to join. Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo may fit the bill of the defenders Mourinho will want to keep around, but the same cannot be said of Phil Jones. Jones’ inability to stay fit or steadily improve may see the Lancastrian finally depart Old Trafford after a bizarre five seasons.

Midfield evolution ahead

Morgan Schneiderlin is likely to fill the role that Nemanja Matic shone in last season, shielding his defence and helping launch counter attacks with quick passing to more creative players. Who takes the slot alongside the Frenchman will be interesting. Whether Michael Carrick signs a new contract is a point of intrigue. Bastian Schweinsteiger is likely to stay, despite his recent injury woes, which may mean Carrick heads for Major League Soccer or perhaps Newcastle United, being that the Englishman is originally a Geordie.

Controversial figure Marouane Fellani’s United career is all but over when Mourinho arrives, and this will be a very popular decision amongst the fanbase. The Belgian is a symbol of the failed Moyes and Van Gaal regimes, and many will be pleased to see Fellaini depart. It remains to be seen what sort of future Daley Blind has at Old Trafford, but his versatility and underrated ability to start attacks with incisive forward passing from deep defence or midfield could see Mourinho retain the Dutchman.

Ruben Neves, Mourinho’s countryman from FC Porto, would be a terrific addition to the United engine room. The incredibly talented 18-year-old is already a key player in the Porto set up; the deep-lying midfielder is a quick mover of the ball, equally capable of playing it short or pinging passes 30 yards across the field. While not a big goalscorer, it is a skill he could add to his game over time.

Neves is also terrific defensively, and is versatile enough to protect the defence on his own if need be. In games where two defensive midfielders are not required, such as home games, this would be ideal. If Neves cannot be prised away, Renato Sanches is a target linked with United in recent weeks – the Reds could make the move in the summer.

Striking changes

The further up the pitch, the more interesting and unknown the changes under a Mourinho regime. Juan Mata’s future is a point of interest, but his departure is no certainty. Chelsea received an offer from United that they could not refuse and would not have gotten elsewhere, and the Spaniard is a vastly different player from the one that left Stamford Bridge in 2014. He now works hard defensively thanks to Van Gaal’s tutelage and this will play well under Mourinho.

This same defensive endeavour may see Jesse Lingard survive the upcoming cull at Old Trafford, but only if he can become less wasteful going forward. Adnan Januzaj may not be so lucky though and it would not be a surprise if a move is best for both parties. Ander Herrera has the ability to join the midfield pivot or fill an ‘Oscar-type’ role as a hard working number 10, so it’s likely the Spaniard will stay.

Memphis is a curious case for Mourinho, however. The prodigiously talented left-winger has what it takes to make it at Old Trafford – showcasing some talent earlier in the season – but whether his new manager has the patience for that remains to be seen. Considering the investment made in Memphis he is likely to get another season to prove himself. Anthony Martial is all but a lock to remain, but what position he plays is of intrigue.

New arrivals on the way?

Targets to join the current crop of attackers might include Edinson Cavani, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Mauro Icardi. Cavani has been unsettled in Paris for most of his time in the French capital. If Zlatan Ibrahimovic does not seek a challenge elsewhere and signs a new deal alongside Laurent Blanc – who does not love Cavani – it’s likely United will be at the front of the queue for his signature come this summer. Icardi has stated a desire to remain in Italy, Mourinho’s arrival could change that dynamic.

Aubameyang would also be an outstanding acquisition. Mourinho’s great sides were built on ruthlessly fast counter-attackers. Nobody fits that bill better than the quickest man in European football. Aubameyang would be expensive, but if recent performances are anything to go by it would be repaid just as quickly as the man from Gabon can run.

Despite a lack of excitement through Van Gaal’s tenure, looking beyond to Mourinho’s appointment is reason to smile. This is speculative, of course, but Mourinho’s ability to attract high-quality talent is at least cause for optimism. Something hardly found at the club at the moment.

Mourinho has a well found reputation for spending and will be allowed to do so once again in Manchester. He will look to build a strong, fast, counter-attacking side. Whether Mourinho reinvents himself for United remains to be seen. Either way the future looks exciting.


MUFC Til I Die - February 18, 2016 Reply

great article

CoolAnimal - February 18, 2016 Reply

the question is who’s leaving the current squard? I’m sooo looking forward to this!

Denton Davey - February 18, 2016 Reply

“Exciting” maybe; “entertaining” for sure. Jo$e gives great pressers.

Obviously, Giggs is a DeadManWalking – he’ll shuffle silently into his own sunset. Rooney, Fellaini, and Mata should also consider contacting an estate agent. All should be at new addresses come August, 2016.

As for the rest – who knows ? Really, who can have a clue about what value any of the players (Anthony Martial excepted) would have under Jo$e. It would be warm and comforting to see home-grown lads like WickerWorkBasket and Lingard and McNair get a chance but it’s impossible to determine what future such guys might have.

So, more change – any improvement ? Well, the pressers should be better.

Dazza2501 - February 18, 2016 Reply

It has to be said, when he gets it right Mourinhos teams score plenty of goals, but he can certainly apply the handbrake too, the concern is which tactical side of Mourinho will prevail. Unlike Madrid & his first Chelsea side united are not blessed with a wealth of options in attack. If he has learnt some lessons, you would like to think the likes of Januzaj & Wilson stand a chance. With Guardiola joining city and LVG’s reign now doomed, United need a huge shot in the arm, and that doesn’t mean Woodward giving us a list of galacticos he is going to sign (again) I would love to see Giggs take over and succeed, but it is a massive gamble. A big response is needed to City and Guardiola , which means a proven winner in charge. Even if he only lasts 3 years surely if Mourinho brings the club back to winning ways it would be worth it ? In order to give him more say and awaiting his chance would Giggs serving as technical or sporting director keep him sweet for the future, further his development as a potential manager and allow him to rejuvenate the scouting and youth set up in conjunction with Nicky Butt? Whatever happens it’s getting a bit desperate with LVG, and Woodward is worried more about how he looks if he has to axe two of his appointments in three years

Denton Davey - February 19, 2016 Reply

Why worry about Giggs ? He’s part of a romantic past – not the future. Giggs has now been the “assistant manager” twice and “interim manager” once and only a misty-eyed romantic would think that he’s the sharpest-knife-in-the-drawer. AND, to me more importantly, he’s gone along with this shite over the past two years. Plus, great players – in all sports – rarely make good managers. Warren Joyce would be a better choice – whoever Mr Warren Joyce is !

MUFC have been remarkably fortunate in having not one – but two – long-serving AND successful managers. Sadly the post-Fergy inter-regnum looks a lot like the post-Busby years in the wastelands.

I get the notion that Jo$e doesn’t represent – or even advocate – “the UTD way”. In the present circumstances, that should be seen as a good thing. Plus, he seems to be spending his “sabbatical” flitting hither-and-yon scouting in Germany, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. His eye-for-talent might not be better than the next guy but if he is TheNextOne then he will surely have gone-to-school on the inadequacies of this collection of players. AND, of course, money will be no object since MUFC are not only rolling in do$h but the sponsors are, not doubt, anxious to see their investments as something other than a comedy – and a shambolic comedy, at that.

The other issue that is impossible to avoid is that the attempt to sign “galacticos” has not only make UTD a laughing-stock but also been totally unsuccessful. The current squad certainly needs an infusion of talent but those in-coming players should be part-and-parcel of team-building NOT advertising whores.

Opti - February 19, 2016 Reply

There are currently 5,000,000,000 better options at United than LvG.

I wished it would have worked. It should have worked on paper and FM. We either sell our corrupt souls and bring on Mourinho or we take a real punt on a young upcoming and risky coach that plays sexy football and has turned over some big dogs in his early days: Diego Simeone

Great. Now, if only we can get fax to work…

Man With A Tan - February 19, 2016 Reply

It should have been Jose after Sir Alex. He would probably be in meltdown by now. But we would probably have a trophy or two in the cabinet. A good squad and a plan for a new manager. This would have papered over the cracks.
The big problem at united is Woodwood and the Glazer family. They just dont get it. Trophies not noodles. Its that simple. As a great man once said be succesull on the pitch and the money will keep on coming

Subterranean Steve - February 19, 2016 Reply

After the simple mistake of Moyes and the catastrophic mistake of van Gaal, United is in a total shambles. It’s all rather bizarre.

Mourinho is the nearest thing to the logical choice, full of imperfections but with the skills needed to turn things around. It’s definitely his dream job and he won’t want to fuck it up. Van Gaal breezed in as the ‘great I am’ and has fallen on his fat arse. Mourinho is way smarter than Dr. Frankenstein and will learn from the Dutchman’s arrogance.

If Mourinho is not coming until next season then I would give the interim job to Giggs with the proviso that Sir Alex is looking over his shoulder. Given that, then a top four finish is still on the cards. I know that sounds rather fanciful, but we need to ditch van Gaal immediately and try to to salvage something from the season.

Desperate times require desperate measures..

Subterranean Steve - February 19, 2016 Reply

United is in disarray, yet we have the greatest manager in the history of the British game sitting in the stands watching over this shambles. Time to put aside the petty squabbles, the revisionist approach to history, the political positioning of recent seasons, the ego-driven posturing to maximise book sales or unsavoury noodle contracts and put the only thing that matters, first. – Manchester United F.C.

Time for someone other than the fans, to show their true colours.

redzebs - February 19, 2016 Reply

Until United get rid of Woodward and the Glazers, there’s no point even speculating, will Jose get the funds he asks for? This isn’t LVG off loading RVP Nani who were on mega bucks, the players he lets go wage wise and sell on wise will be less, so there’s going to have to be a huge + spend, will the Glazers do that or will they give it to a younger coach who can maintain top 4 each season with decent enough football and the odd cup run.

Éric Le7rouge - February 19, 2016 Reply

how are you so sure about Mourinhio

Denton Davey - February 19, 2016 Reply

What’s the alternative ?

roger kelly - February 19, 2016 Reply

Very interesting article. After last nights defeat who ever takes over has a lot of work and certainly LVG has lost the ability not only to buy decent players but also to motivate the players. He has to go.
United have only one world class player De Gea and god help us now that he is injured. Rooney, Carrick ,Mata ,Smalling[ though recently Smalling is playing poorly] are top Premier League players. However none of the mentioned have the real leadership qualities. Take Rooney for example he came out in defence of Depay after his stupid display and pass against Chelsea if Roy Keane had been captain he surely would have taken a different tact!
LVG signings overall have been poor except Martial. Memphis is a one trick poney worse than Nani and shows no ability to read the game and also seems unfit carrying too much weight. Martial has a lot of potential but needs to learn how to hold the ball up with his back to the goal like Rooney/Mark Hughes if he is to play as the main striker- he can if he is properly coached the next Henri. Schneidarlin has been a great disappointment looks nervious and also seems to go missing when we need someone to do the dirty work Wanyama would have been a better buy as has be has a more physical presence. Bothwick-Jackson looks promising as does Valera and Darmian/ Shaw should be the first choice next season. Again LVG missed out on buying Garay and went for Rojo who has also been a big disappointment. Aubumeyung would be an excellent buy strong and pacey totally what we lack at present.
With Pep arriving with the Blue boys this summer certainly Mourinho will put together a strong committed team and will show passion and desire unlike the sad LVG sitting on the bench which inspires no one.

IXD - February 20, 2016 Reply

top article

BukiBookey - February 20, 2016 Reply

Mata don’t stand a chance, he is mediocre player , unlike Januzaj , Mourinho rated highly Januzaj .

Quamie - February 23, 2016 Reply

Stick to LVG for long term ambitions.. Mourinho might turn things around..granted.. But what of our youth football? We all know he gives zero fucks to that.. LVG at Barca was bad, but 4-5 yrs later the youngsters he introduced were conquering Europe..same with Bayern….Jux be patient n not short-sighted

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