Irascible Manchester United chief Jose Mourinho is the latest subject of Manager Files as we take a look at the tactics, mannerisms, demeanour and touchline antics of the game’s top bosses.
For much of the weekend’s game away to Hull City, Mourinho cut a rather lonely figure as he stood on his own in the technical area in the driving Humberside rain, surveying the action. A picture of concentration, with a face like thunder in an overcoat that wouldn’t have looked out of place in The Sopranos, Mourinho was soaked to the bone while wearing his expensive apparel by the time young Marcus Rashford popped up to score United’s injury-time winner.
United seem to have their swagger back under Mourinho. And just as importantly a side that looked to have a soft underbelly last term under Louis Van Gaal now looks very, very solid. The Portuguese has generally favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation and went with this again at Hull.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic worked tirelessly up front while Eric Bailly was again brilliant at the back. When it became clear that Hull were content to sit back and soak it up in the hope of claiming a point, Don Jose brought on teen sensation Rashford.
There had been awkward questions during the week about how much Rashford – who made his breakthrough for club and country in such impressive fashion last season – would feature in this Mourinho side that was ram packed with attacking talent. His last-gasp winner suggests though that the Wythenshawe wonder’s future looks bright rather than uncertain under Jose.
The use of Marouane Fellaini in a specialised holding midfield role has also surprised us. Many expected the Belgian’s days at Old Trafford would be numbered following the arrival of the Portuguese coach, but Mourinho has picked the player at the base of the midfield, with his form keeping Michael Carrick out of the side and set to spell the end for Bastian Schweinsteiger at the club.
Despite the dark sky and horrendous conditions Mourinho watched the action at the KCOM like a hungry hawk might watch a squirrel. He was pensive and at times lost in his own thoughts. Hull proved a difficult nut to crack but when Wayne Rooney surged to the bye line and squared the ball with 92 minutes on the clock for Rashford to tap home, Mourinho finally sought solace in his own dugout, running towards his back room team to celebrate a win achieved in Fergie time.
There was a touch of class afterwards too after Mourinho warmly embraced and commiserated former United player and assistant boss Mike Phelan.
What they said
The boss was understandably full of praise for young Rashford, who during a press briefing afterwards said gives them options tactically.
“When we brought the kid to the game, it gave us a diversity of football. We started playing a different way. Of course we had a bit of luck at the end.”
Yet when asked about the player’s prospects of featuring in the Manchester derby on September 10 Mourinho gave little away. “He can play, but he can be on the bench. I don’t know. I have to analyse.”
Mourinho was respectful of Hull both before and after the match, electing to praise their tenacity and fighting spirit.
However on Monday, a day Sam Allardyce was confirming Rooney would retain the England captaincy, the Old Trafford boss revealed he would have no problem dropping the United ace and hinting his performance against the Tigers was not up to scratch.
The comments of course have given Rooney food for thought as he heads off on international duty, and the hope is he will return determined to prove to his boss he still should be one of the first names on the team sheet.
United’s next game is the small matter of the Manchester derby, with Mourinho going head-to-head with old Iberian rival Pep Guardiola. Expect the mind games and psychological warfare to reach new levels of intensity between now and then.
Three games. Three wins. And a tangible sense of optimism among the red faithful. Mourinho is already working his magic at Old Trafford, where fans have good reason to be getting excited. As it stands his job is as safe as houses, and this is reflected in current 100/1 quotes for him to be the next Premier League boss to vacate his post.
The man with the arguably the biggest ego in football mind just have landed a long-term home at the biggest club in English football.
By Derek Bilton