Saturday 16 December 2017

Ronnie Whelan: Jose Mourinho is king at killing games but Man United won't tolerate that approach

Read Ronnie Whelan's exclusive column every week in The Herald

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho speaks with Chelsea assistant first team coach Steve Holland before the match
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho speaks with Chelsea assistant first team coach Steve Holland before the match
Ronnie Whelan

Ronnie Whelan

So much for Jose Mourinho and Manchester United’s chances of winning the title by stringing six men across the back and hitting the big man.

It was a right hammering in a ground where he was once unbeatable and players followed his message with military precision.

Standing on the touchline, he looked as shell-shocked as he did in the home dugout just a year ago while his best-laid plans crumbled and players stopped believing.

If he sticks to this road, he will alienate fans who have had three grim seasons, know their football and won’t be looking forward to more of the same.

There is no sign that Mourinho has improved on what Louis van Gaal did and that was poor.

Certainly, if his philosophy can justify playing one of the best young strikers in world football, Marcus Rashford, on the wing or even as a full-back, it’s not for me.

At the start of the week gone, Mourinho went to Anfield and was praised for finding a way to kill the game.

It wasn’t a complete lock-out but it was dreadful to watch.

At the start of a new week, we are talking about Mourinho coming unstuck at his old stomping crowd and poor defending was at the root of the defeat.

In between, a demolition of Fenerbahce and a developing idea that Mourinho might just be the man to back in a title chase which is very clearly wide open simply because he knows how to shut up shop better than anyone else.

But I have to say, at no stage in the last week or three months has it ever struck me that Mourinho can win the title and I think his team’s place in the table shows that nicely, a 4-0 defeat by Chelsea even better.

The reality here is that Mourinho is the king at killing a game and he will bring success over the long haul if you grit your teeth and don’t interfere. That was fine at Chelsea where they were desperate for the title. They just wanted to win it and it didn’t matter how.

Mourinho is your man in those circumstances but once Chelsea had dined at the top table and Roman Abramovich decided he wanted to win the title a different way, out went the Special One.

In other words, Mourinho’s way is great as long as he keeps winning but once the production line of points stopped at Stamford Bridge, Abramovich no longer had any reason to hold onto a man who had become a liability through his public behaviour.

That’s his problem at Old Trafford now where they are many who never wanted to hire him in the first place.

He needs results or supporters will start to examine the football with ever more critical eyes.

I completely understand that the high level of organisation Mourinho achieved at Chelsea and other clubs is admirable and when it is done by players bought when money is no object, it can even be good to watch.

But in this case, Mourinho is working with a hodge-podge squad made up of kids and the signings made by three other managers and himself.

He has three egos to juggle in Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba and there is no sign of any compatibility between them on the pitch. So much so that Mourinho had to drop his captain recently. All the big names are gathering at the top of the table with nothing to separate them. Mourinho already has six points to make up.

In among them is Jurgen Klopp who moved on very quickly from that awful 0-0 against United with the right result against West Brom.

Once again, Liverpool kept us on the edge of our seats by conceding from a set-piece when fully in control of a game and this remains a big source of concern.

But I would prefer that than the kind of football Mourinho will deliver up to Manchester United fans for the foreseeable future.

With Klopp, Liverpool fans can see what he is trying to do and can be optimistic that, over time, the evolution of the team will include a better way to defend set-pieces.

It didn’t help Klopp that he went on Sky and explained to everyone watching how Liverpool defend set-pieces. It’s hard enough to win without telling other managers your secrets.

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