Wednesday 19 June 2019

United may turn corner but Mourinho not for changing

Maroune Fellaini rushes to join in as Alexis Sanchez tunrs away in celebration after
scoring the winner for Manchester United at Old Trafford. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA
Maroune Fellaini rushes to join in as Alexis Sanchez tunrs away in celebration after scoring the winner for Manchester United at Old Trafford. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

Luke Edwards

Even amid the euphoria of this most unexpected of comebacks as Manchester United came from 2-0 down at half-time to beat Newcastle 3-2, Jose Mourinho could not be happy just to celebrate.

He fired shots, took swipes, poked, prodded and pushed. He still sounded like a man at war with everyone. That is the problem.

This was a chaotic sort of triumph, a victory achieved in spite of the confusion engulfing the home side's ranks.

Nobody seemed to know what formation Manchester United were playing in the second half.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was warmly embraced by United
managing director Richard Arnold. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was warmly embraced by United managing director Richard Arnold. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

It was an every-man-for-himself bayonet charge with a two-man defence, two holding midfielders and everyone else looking to attack.

Was it a direction-shifting moment or part of a cycle? Have United turned a corner or are they heading back in the same direction, to encounter all the same obstacles they have struggled to overcome before?

Mourinho lashed out at claims in the media that he was on the brink of losing his job.

No manager is going to ignore the fact there was a story published on Friday night - which was debated by broadcasters throughout Saturday - that he was going to be sacked, regardless of the result at Old Trafford.

According to eye witnesses, Mourinho was warmly embraced by United managing-director Richard Arnold in the tunnel after the game.

That is not the behaviour of someone on a board which is about to sack the manager.

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez speaks with Javier Manquillo (left) after the Premier League match at Old Trafford. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA
Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez speaks with Javier Manquillo (left) after the Premier League match at Old Trafford. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

There were a few sparks of humour in Mourinho's post-match interviews, a line about claiming he was getting the blame if it rained, as well as for Brexit, but also darker, teeth-grinding moments.

Mourinho's management style has always been abrasive, but was there really any need to talk about young players such as Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay lacking the courage to play under pressure?

Did Eric Bailly deserve to be hauled off after 19 minutes? Punished for two mistakes by his captain, Ashley Young, who was turned and twisted by Kenedy for Newcastle's first goal and sent to the shops by Yoshinori Muto, before he smashed in the second.

What happened in the second half was exhilarating and thrilling. From the moment Juan Mata curled in a free-kick with 20 minutes remaining, United looked like they would score every time they attacked.

The noise in Old Trafford was so loud you could feel it in your chest. The singing of Mourinho's name was prolonged. Tellingly, even when the team were losing, the only hostility vocalised was aimed at the board, not the manager.

Anthony Martial's equaliser, six minutes later, was a brilliant goal and then came the winner, scored by a player who has been one of the biggest failures of the Mourinho era.

Manchester United's Anthony Martial celebrates at the final whistle. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA
Manchester United's Anthony Martial celebrates at the final whistle. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

Alexis Sanchez has justified neither his wages nor his reputation at United, which means the man who signed him takes the blame. But there he was, jumping at the back post, heading the winner.

After seeing the Red Devils end their four-game losing streak in all competitions, Mourinho didn't spare his punches as he hit back as hit critics.

"For of the first time I see in football a manhunt, I am 55, I am mature, I can cope with it. I can live with it.

"Clearly some of the boys, in spite of their not being the man that is hunted, I think they are not coping well with it. The way they start the game was absolutely panicking.

"Marcus Rashford was sad on the pitch. Scott McTominay was scared on the pitch. Even all the players, they make mistakes that are not normal.

"I think at half-time we had a good conversation. We didn't promise to each other we would win the match, we promised we would give absolutely everything without fear. They gave everything."

He added:: "As a friend of mine was saying to me this morning, if tomorrow rains in London it's my fault. If there is some difficulty to have the agreement of Brexit, it's my fault. And I have to be ready for all of this.

"I think a lot of wickedness and a clear man-hunting that I think in football is too much. It's my life, it's a life I love, it's a life I worked since I was a kid. I will love it until my last day. It's one more experience."

This could be a pivotal moment in Mourinho's reign, coming back from two goals down against a Newcastle team who deserved at least a point but ended up defeated. Mourinho, though, has to want it to be positive; a catalyst.

"The half-time team talk was very strong and it gave us a kick up the backside. The way we played in the second half was much quicker, much more direct, more like the United you saw in the old days," said Luke Shaw.

While hailing the efforts of his players, Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez agreed when asked whether the collapse at Old Trafford had exposed his squad's limitations.

"I think everybody can see that - it's not just Mike Ashley," he said. "Everybody can see the team is working so hard, doing so many good things, but today we are talking about one of the top six and we cannot compete against them player-by-player in 90 minutes." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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