Wednesday 22 November 2017

Comment - Man United's Europa League victory is day zero for the Jose Mourinho project - and it's a year overdue

Jose Mourinho celebrating last night
Jose Mourinho celebrating last night

Ed Malyon

Tonight in Stockholm could have been a Sliding Doors moment for Manchester United.

Three years down the line with United tumbling down the league, we might have wondered what if, how if they had won that Europa League final then they would be back to winning the Premier League by now.

Instead there will be no such Salfordian lament. Manchester United are back in the Champions League and they remain a money-making machine. The arriving players this summer will be A-listers and they have a manager who, in flashes, appears to have got his mojo back.

David De Gea and Wayne Rooney will be among those to leave, each a member of that A-list in their own way but expendable for a club of such resources that still boasts a squad in need of some refreshing.

Much of what is needed for United to flourish is Jose Mourinho to shed, or at least loosen, his conservative nature. A leopard of this age rarely changes its spots but those who defend him within the game state that if he could buy defenders he trusted then the willingness to dial up the attack would be greater.

In that sense he will always be safety first but the right flair player can bring out the best in Mourinho.

For now it is a cup double to complete their first campaign. Both trophies were second-tier in their own way but get them where they need to be for the start of next season.

This is day zero for United in a way. They are back at base camp and staring at Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Bayern Munich atop the mountain. Domestically Chelsea and Manchester City will be the ones to catch. To even overhaul them they will need to get past Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool.

Winning the Europa League is a great success for United because of what it means to the city, in the context of this week's events. It is a great success for United because its got them into the Champions League.

But this can only be the start for Mourinho's project there. And it's a year overdue, don't forget.

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