Manchester United hierarchy 'encouraged' by what they are seeing from Jose Mourinho and his team
Jose Mourinho retains the steadfast support and patience of Manchester United’s hierarchy, who have been “encouraged” by the team’s improving style of play, despite worsening results consigning the club to their poorest start to a season for 26 years.
The Daily Telegraph understands that United’s powerbrokers firmly share Mourinho’s view that the Premier League table, in which the club lie sixth, 13 points adrift of leaders Chelsea and nine behind fourth-placed Manchester City, does not offer an accurate reflection of the progress being made in performance terms.
The dull, risk averse brand of football United were widely accused of playing under Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, was as much a factor in the Dutchman’s dismissal in May after two seasons in charge as the club’s failure to qualify for this season’s Champions League. Van Gaal’s reign was said to have “clearly run its course”, even though United finished the campaign by winning the FA Cup.
But Mourinho’s paymasters believe the former Chelsea manager is presiding over a marked uplift in performance terms, even if a run of just two wins from the past 11 league matches has already left the club facing a battle to finish in the top four, and are confident results will improve as a consequence.
“The club have been encouraged by what they’re seeing in performance terms,” a source said. “There’s confidence results will improve as that performance level continues to improve.”
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Mourinho suggested last week that results might have been better at this stage had he stuck with Van Gaal’s way of playing but said he was determined to honour United’s traditions of attacking football and that effectively having to recondition players had put him at a disadvantage. It is thought there is sympathy among United’s hierarchy with that viewpoint.
Mourinho spent almost £150 million in the transfer window last summer, when he smashed the world transfer record to sign France midfielder, Paul Pogba, from Juventus for £89 million, but he is expected to be backed again in the market next year. The Portuguese believes some of the signings in recent years have not been of the required standard and will only bring in recruits next month if players of the sufficient quality are available.
United have taken steps to drastically improve their scouting operation, at first team level as well as academy level, by embarking on a huge recruiting drive over the past year.
United’s 1-1 draw away to Everton on Sunday was their third by that scoreline in succession and has increased the pressure ahead of the visit of Spurs to Old Trafford on Sunday, when defeat would leave United trailing Mauricio Pochettino’s fifth placed side by nine points.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who believes United have not got their just rewards for some strong performances in recent weeks, invited scrutiny after catching Everton defender Seamus Coleman on the head with his foot as they fell to the ground during a challenge. But Ibrahimovic denied that he had intentionally allowed his boot to hit Coleman. “It was a physical game. They played hard,” he said. “I heard one of the commentators say I kicked someone in the head on purpose, but it was a 50-50 duel and he pulled me down. Trust me, if I want to kick someone in the head, I know how to kick someone in the head and make him fall asleep. That is the only thing I have to say.”