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Man City documentary jibes likely to add to Jose Mourinho's frustration

The United coach has endured a difficult few weeks, owing to a lack of transfer activity and the precarious-looking Paul Pogba situation.

Jose Mourinho (file pic).
Jose Mourinho (file pic).
Image: Nick Potts

JOSE MOURINHO HAS a reputation for struggling in his third season at clubs and the signs this year at United are far from promising.

Last season’s runners-up did at least start with a 2-1 victory at home to Leicester City, but United looked nervy at times, with their opponents enjoying the majority of possession (54%) as well as registering more shots (13 to 8, per the BBC).

The Red Devils ground out the result regardless in typical Mourinho fashion, but stiffer challenges will follow, while the three points against the Foxes is unlikely to appease those who have expressed concerns about the style of football being employed by the Portuguese coach at Old Trafford.

Whereas United laboured to the win, arguably their two biggest rivals, Man City and Liverpool, enjoyed impressive starts, playing the type of attractive football that is not quite so commonplace during United games these days.

Jurgen Klopp’s side crushed West Ham 4-0, while City deservedly overcame Arsenal 2-0. And while news of Kevin De Bruyne’s injury is likely to cause some concern for the reigning champions, their squad depth is so strong — as emphasised by their dominant display in the first 60 minutes without the star against the Gunners — that losing him is by no means a fatal blow.

On the other hand, the same probably cannot be said for most of their rivals — United without David de Gea, Tottenham minus Harry Kane or Liverpool deprived of Mo Salah are all an entirely different proposition.

And so while Pep Guardiola won’t be overly anxious despite the De Bruyne blow, Mourinho will have cause for worry with the situation he finds himself in currently.

He clearly was not happy with United’s lack of transfer activity and the targets they failed to land — a number of reports have suggested as much, while Mourinho pointedly commented last week on how ‘head coaches’ are becoming far more prevalent in football compared with managers, owing to their perceived lack of control over player recruitment.

Despite the World Cup winner being made United captain against the Foxes as well as the coach’s claims to the contrary, the Paul Pogba situation seemingly remains a major headache for Mourinho, with the Frenchman issuing a thinly-veiled criticism of his boss last weekend.

And to top it all off, a new Manchester City documentary is unlikely to be pleasant viewing for Mourinho.

Footage shows Pep Guardiola following City’s 2-1 win at Old Trafford last season emphasising how his team “killed” United “while playing football”.

In ‘All or Nothing,’ De Bruyne also alludes to his troubled time at Chelsea under Mourinho, saying: ”I was only 20 years old when I decided to sign for Chelsea, and I got my chances in the first few games and I thought, okay, things are going well, I play okay, we won the games.

“But then one day it stopped. Knowing me, I had not a lot of patience at the time, I decided to go in January.”

Guardiola urges his men to “play football with courage,” while the harshest criticism reserved for Mourinho is arguably issued by British actor and the documentary’s narrator Ben Kingsley, who at one point says: “It is Guardiola versus Mourinho once more; possession versus defence; attacking football versus ‘park-the-bus.’”

Such quips are nothing Mourinho hasn’t heard before. In 2017, after the perceived negative tactics he employed to win the Europa League against Ajax, the manager stated: “There are many poets in football, but poets don’t win many titles.” Unfortunately for Mourinho, these comments have dated quite badly, with Guardiola’s City subsequently going on to win the Premier League playing some of the most scintillating football the English top flight has ever seen.

Yet their repetitiveness does not mean the manager will not be quietly seething at these latest jibes. Mourinho has a reputation for being sensitive to criticism — he has on more than one occasion hit back at pundits who have had the temerity to criticise United.

Yet there is a growing sense that the illustrious coach is no longer as powerful as he once was — United’s board have stood up to him recently, as has Pogba.

Numerous reports that the club are looking to appoint a Director of Football is another sign that his authority is being undermined.

If the 55-year-old survives in the role past September of next year, it will be the longest amount of time he has spent in any managerial job. Yet increasingly, with these renewed doubts over his ability, it feels as if turning this difficult situation around would be the biggest and most important achievement of his managerial career to date.

Premier League fixtures (all games 3pm kick-off unless stated otherwise)

Saturday

Cardiff v Newcastle (12.30)

Everton v Southampton

Leicester v Wolves

Tottenham v Fulham

West Ham v Bournemouth

Chelsea v Arsenal (17.30)

Sunday

Burnley v Watford (13.30)

Man City v Huddersfield (13.30)

Brighton v Man United (16.00)

Monday

Crystal Palace v Liverpool (20.00)

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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