Manchester United are now genuine title contenders, insists Joe Mourinho
Second season syndrome has more regularly been an affliction that sees teams found out after a year of success, sent off into a tailspin as results flounder.
But during Jose Mourinho’s coaching career it has been a cast-iron recipe for success, having won a league title during his sophomore campaign at each club.
Heading into his second year at Manchester United, though, there is hope, perhaps expectation, of a tilt at the Premier League title. Leaping from sixth place to top may appear ambitious but United are precisely that.
Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof are the only signings so far this summer but they won’t be the last; moreover, they are players who will steel this side’s core and, after a year of working alongside Mourinho, the existing squad now know better what is required of them too.
“We have to put ourselves in a position in the Premier League that allows us to fight for the title,” said Mourinho, previewing a season where he thinks an improved attack that turns draws into wins will ultimately be the key to United competing at the top again.
“I think the challenge is to win more matches than we did,” he said.
“At home, we lost only one match, to Manchester City. In the cups we never lost, and in the Europa League, we never lost, so for the whole season, we lost one match. But there were too many draws.
“It would be better to lose two or three matches but win three or four more matches, and then we would have six to eight more points. With these six to eight more points, our position in the table would be different.
We had lots of dominance at home, we had lots of chances, we had lots of matches where the result could or should be 2-0 or 3-0 and in the end was 1-1. I know all of that and I understand your question. But to have a better position in the table we must win more matches than we did last season.”
But what of his remarkable second-season record and what it might mean for the looming campaign?
“I don’t think I am going to win it because I always win it in the second season. Not at all. I just think that naturally, a manager in the second season knows the players and knows the club better.
“We are in a position to do quality work better than we did in the first season, so I am convinced – it is not just a hope, I am convinced – that our second season, in terms of the quality of our team, is going to be better. I have conditions to deliver a better team than I did in the first season. If that is going to mean better results and the title, I don’t know.”
And yet Mourinho hinted at a formula he thinks could make the difference for United.
After a season in which the now-departed (but slated to return) Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted 28 goals, the obvious focus is on Lukaku to step into those boots. But additionally there is an expectation that Lukaku will need his fellow attackers to support him, with only three other players hitting double-figure goals last season.
“At my other clubs, what I had was more players scoring goals. I had midfield players scoring goals, wingers scoring goals, central defenders good in the air scoring goals from set-pieces. We always had that.
“In my teams, we always had the goalscorer, we always had the guy who scored more goals, but then we had the winger who scored 15 goals, we had the midfielder who scored 10 goals, we had the central defender who scored goals and last season that didn’t happen much.
“We were focused on the goals that our striker was scoring. When he was not scoring, the team were a little bit in trouble to win matches.”
Independent News Service