As this one gets typed, Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal is still in the managers chair — a feat many expected to not be the case following two lackluster results over the crazy holiday week that was.
Those results should’ve had Van Gaal out of a job already according to many, and even some inside the Dutch setup believe Van Gaal has an exit strategy to avoid the sack.
However, he still sits in charge as Wednesday draws to a close in Manchester.
It all seems surreal, but perhaps the most surreal of all is the consistent speculation that “the special one,” Jose Mourniho, will come in to save the day for the Red Devils.
While it is unwise to hand the job off before it is available, one can’t help but wonder what Jose Mourniho plus Wayne Rooney and Memphis Depay would look like, right? It certainly would make the Red Devils more watchable, if only for the soap opera that is Mourinho himself.
But, the most important thing is figuring out if Jose Mourinho would be the guy everyone fancies and can’t deliver, or the one everyone fancies because of pedigree and can deliver what Manchester United expect — title challenges, trophies and Champions League soccer.
On the plus side for Mourinho is his track record, especially in his first season in charge of a club. In his first three stops at the top levels (Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan), Mourinho won titles.
Sure, all of those were done from the start of the season, but in the 2015-16 English Premier League, it isn’t as if anyone is running away at the top of the table and Manchester United aren’t far off getting back to Champions League soccer.
Maybe reaching for the title is a bit of stretch, but saving this season would likely mean getting back to Champions League soccer and competing for a domestic trophy as well.
Currently, Man Utd sit just five points off the last Champions League spot occupied by Tottenham Hotspur. With 19 matches remaining, and a matchup with Spurs still to come near the end of the season, there’s plenty of time to make up that kind of ground.
Mourinho also is a master of a domestic title run, winning at least one domestic trophy at every stop he’s had since coming to Porto in the 2002-03 season.
In a year where fans have become silent at the Theater of Dreams, and the ground swell against the players and coaching staff has become brutal at times, a deep cup run would help quell those thoughts too.
All of those things are great to think about, but can Mourinho actually do them with this team?
Could it possibly be that it is the squad and its aptitude as well as attitude that need changing?
To that last end, Chelsea suffered from some of the same confidence problems that Manchester United players are being questioned about. Even John Obi Mikel admits the atmosphere and confidence have come back since Mourinho left.
“We’ve moved on from that and the atmosphere has improved since the change of manager,” he said. “It’s fine now, we’ve just not been getting results.”
Some of the same issues allegedly exist between Van Gaal and his players. It isn’t as if Mourinho’s ego is any less or his system ideas much different than Van Gaal’s, and those seem to be the main issues existing between manager and player.
Let’s also talk about the fact that Juan Mata, a key player this season for the Red Devils, was not exactly a Jose Mourinho fan and the two parted ways just this past offseason with Mata’s move to Manchester United.
Could the two co-exist and flourish after all of that? One would think the two back together again would still be as toxic as it was the first time around on and off the pitch. Something just didn’t click between the two and that’s the last thing a club in need of a change of attitude in the dressing room needs.
One has to wonder if going from one high-profile manager to the next is what this club needs in terms of man-management right now.
As for on the pitch? This is where the stronger case for Mourinho’s hiring exists.
With a club featuring intriguing pieces like Chris Smalling, Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis, Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney there is a great set of skills for Mourinho to mold and shape his squad around.
Mourinho’s squads are always built on a strong defense, a single striker up top and physical play up the middle of the pitch. Smalling is a great rock at the back line to build from, Scheinderlin and a healthy Schweinsteiger would be a great pairing to work with in the midfield and Memphis and Martial are great options for the flair and wing play this team would need.
The canvas is hardly blank, but it is also a canvas and a formation that Van Gaal loves to work from as well. It hasn’t exactly been successful.
Changing up the manager may have the biggest impact on Memphis of all players though, as he simply hasn’t gotten on with his countryman, Van Gaal, since his arrival.
Memphis has instead gone into a shell of his former self on the pitch and a clearly frustrated player off of it as well. Hiring Mourinho may be the key to unlocking the player that dazzled in the Eredivisie over the past few years and earned him the move to Manchester United this offseason.
Can Mourinho come in and do a quick turnaround job on the backs of those four players? There certainly hasn’t been a lot to work with outside of that group and sparking their play could lift a bunch of players badly in need of good things happening in front of them.
As the saying goes — a rising tide lifts all boats. In the case of Manchester United it may be case of watching fellow world class players rise in to form that gets everyone else to play well too.
If Manchester United believe Mourinho can get that kind of magic done in a short time, then making this hire now is a smart move. Otherwise, this squad may be better off working a deal for a permanent manager in the offseason and going back to its roots — hiring a manager proven at lower levels and hungry instead of the “hot name” in the papers.
Hiring Mourinho certainly would be the expected move, but there are plenty of questions as to if he’s the right man to actually get things to change. Players certainly haven’t responded to a “my way or the highway” manger, and Mourinho isn’t exactly much different.
It appears the gamble is something worth exploring, but could ultimately be more of the same than the magic pill everyone is hoping for to save the 2015-16 season. A move for Mourinho may be better off being made at the end of this season than during it — if the Red Devils front office wants to make it at all.