In his own words, Jose Mourinho has claimed that he is a calmer, more peaceful man now. But is that truly the case?
Nearly ten months ago, it was announced that Jose Mourinho would be the next manager of Manchester United, taking over the reins from his mentor, Louis van Gaal.
The Dutchman finally delivered the elusive trophy after winning the FA Cup a day before he was relieved of his duties at Old Trafford. But he was often lamented for not playing an attractive brand of football, with things reaching a head when Manchester United failed to qualify for the Champions League.
The announcement of Mourinho’s appointment was, thus, greeted by a range of emotions. While some were optimistic about a rosy future, others remained skeptical about the credentials of a manager who had been sacked by the beleaguered Premier League Champions, Chelsea, not too long ago.
However, nearly ten months into his rein as the Manchester United manager, and things seem to be on track for improvement, albeit gradually. The Red Devils have struggled at times, particularly in front of goal, but Mourinho has made them hard to beat.
That is indicative in their unbelievable unbeaten run in the Premier League, having not lost a game since going down 4-0 to Chelsea back in October. And they are slowly but surely climbing their way up the Premier League table, even though they might not be able to contest for the title just yet.
Chinks in the Manchester United armour are aplenty, but the improvements are visible. Mourinho has already delivered his first title at Old Trafford too, having won the EFL Cup last month, and Manchester United are into the quarterfinals of the Europa League, with many regarding them as the favourites for the title.
So, Mourinho has certainly been influencing things positively for Manchester United with an exciting climax to the season being set up, but has that been the case the other way around? Well, from the horse’s mouth himself, the answer would point towards yes.
In an interview with France Football, Mourinho has said that he is more in control of his emotions and has calmed down. When asked what he has become since taking over the helm at Old Trafford, he said: “I would say, ‘The Calm One.'”
“Everyone expected me to be a problem. But the only problem I’ve had up till now is when I kicked a bottle of water in front of me [against West Ham in reaction to Pogba being booked]. I was sent to the stand and had to pay a fine for that.
“That’s my problem: when I’m a little bit frustrated, I kick bottles. But it’s my only outburst since my arrival eight months ago. So, I have become ‘The Calm One.’ Having said that, perhaps tomorrow I’ll get sent off.”
And while his outlook may have changed slightly, the hunger and desire to win trophies still remain the same, he says. But, is that really the case? Has Mourinho indeed adopted a calmer, more peaceful persona? Is he indeed recreating his image at Manchester United?
The answer may not be as black and white as yes and no. That is because signs point towards both being true.
Why no? One of the blatant problems is discipline. As Mourinho himself agreed, he has the tendency to act out of impulse, as he did when he kicked a bottle of water in reaction to Paul Pogba being booked for diving in the match against West Ham United in November.
That saw the Portuguese tactician being sent off and earning a touchline ban – the second such disciplinary issue he has been at the receiving end of this season. The first incident came against Burnley as Mourinho was dismissed for protesting too much against referee Mark Clattenburg’s decision to not reward Manchester United with a penalty.
But his run-ins with the officials have not been all. In addition to the not so ‘peaceful’ protests, the Manchester United manager has also complained incessantly about the fixture congestion his side finds itself in, as they continue to progress to the latter stages of the Europa League.
In fact, Manchester United are scheduled to play a mammoth nine fixtures in the span of thirty days, including the two Europa League ties against Anderlecht and the postponed Manchester Derby from February.
The conspiracy theories, albeit decreased, have surfaced too, with Mourinho has claimed that the Red Devils have ‘lots of enemies’ who have conspired to increase the burden on his charges, thus being at the receiving ends of a lot of criticism.
But there may be some substance to his claims, looking at the list of fixtures, although this was going to be a part of all the successes that Manchester United have gone on to achieve this season.
Manchester United officials have also been on the receiving ends of his barbs, after the disruption of the first team’s journey from following the loss in the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge last week. So, such incidents would certainly have people begging to differ on Mourinho having become calmer.
Are his comments on becoming more mature and peaceful more in jest than anything else? Not quite would be the answer to that. To begin with, he seems to be enjoying a far better relationship with his players in the Northwest of England than he did in the country’s capital.
2015/16 saw Mourinho’s relations with his players reach the lowest of ebbs during Chelsea’s disastrous defence of the Premier League title they had won so convincingly in the previous campaign. The Blues had slumped to 16th in the league table, with things not looking any likely to improve.
While the breakdown of his relationship with the Chelsea players may have been behind closed doors, there was also the more public fall out with team doctor Eva Carneiro in the very first game of the campaign against Swansea City.
All that suggested that Mourinho only got on well with players and staff when things were going hunky dory, with things unravelling during the struggles, and there were evidences from his first spell at Chelsea as well as the one at Real Madrid.
However, things have been much different at Manchester United, as he seems to be enjoying a better relationship with his squad at Old Trafford. There have been no reports of clashes yet, within the squad.
Overlooked players like Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial have put their heads down and worked hard before reclaiming their place in the starting lineups. Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay, who were sold after struggling to break into the side, haven’t spoken ill of their previous boss either.
Juan Mata, who famously left Chelsea to join Manchester United after falling out of favour with Mourinho in 2014, has become one of the go-to men for his new boss at Old Trafford, when many had predicted that he could be on his way out of the club last summer.
The only blot on his copybook at Manchester United has been that of Luke Shaw, but there have been no reported incidents of the Englishman falling out with Mourinho, meaning it might just be a matter of the player needing to improve before getting his place back in the squad.
On top of that, he has publicly backed the likes of Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba, who have come under fire for underwhelming performances over the course of the season.
The result of that has been apparent in the improvements shown by Fellaini, in particular, and the Belgian has been a man reformed in recent months. A player known for his combative style of play, he hasn’t been booked once in the last 21 games that he has played.
As for Pogba, he has been blowing hot and cold all season. And while the jury is still out on him being the right fit for Manchester United, the Frenchman has shown signs of being the world class player that the team needs in the centre of the park.
Mourinho, himself, has emphasised the importance of “peace and love” in the Manchester United squad, two traits he is not quite known for, but evidence points that that is certainly changing. So, is Mourinho indeed recreating his image at Manchester United?
He hasn’t done that yet, as he still comes with his fair share of controversies, but he definitely is on his way of doing that and a club like Manchester United might be just the tonic required to achieving the impossible to becoming The Mature One.