CERTAIN PLAYERS LIKE Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and David de Gea will be excited by Jose Mourinho’s appointment as Manchester United manager.
But others will fear his arrival. And for good reason.
Mourinho had issues with the Spaniard while at Chelsea. He perceived Mata as a ‘luxury player’ and sold him to United owing to his inability to conform to the system Mourinho was trying to integrate at Stamford Bridge.
A delicate player who lacks pace to play wide and the trickery, guile and discipline to operate as a 10, Mata has still racked up goals and assists since arriving at United. But he’s never dictated games, never bossed them or taken them by the scruff of their necks.
His stand-out moment remains the two-goal performance at Anfield and that spectacular second strike.
But it’s hard to know where he’ll fit under Mourinho, particularly with Rooney a certain starter in a deeper role.
He likes explosiveness from the wide players in a front-three – think of Eden Hazard on one side and Willian on the other at Chelsea.
If United are in the market for a Ibrahimovic-like goalscorer, it would certainly mean Anthony Martial will remain out wide, perhaps with Jesse Lingard on the other side and Rooney deeper due to his defensive abilities.
That leaves little room for Mata.
It sounds outrageous, doesn’t it? That United’s find of the season, the youngster that could cap off a remarkable season with a trip to the European Championships, could find himself frustrated by Mourinho’s arrival.
But it’s true.
Mourinho doesn’t do promise. He doesn’t have the patience to wait around for young players to find their way. It’s what makes Martial such a rarity – a raw, relatively inexperienced player who’s already so polished.
And Mourinho especially can’t wait for a goalscoring striker to blossom. The role is too important. He’d rather buy a proven product hence the genuine interest in Ibrahimovic.
Last season, the club’s top-scorer was Martial with 11 Premier League goals – a miserable return.
It’s worth remembering that Louis van Gaal deployed Ashley Young at centre-forward at season’s end – a sign of just how lacking the team was through the middle.
A goalscorer will be a priority this summer. And Rashford will understandably grow anxious that the same opportunities won’t be afforded to him next term.
Mourinho likes hard workers. His favorite players at Chelsea were Willian and Oscar because of their energy, their discipline in getting back and keeping in-line with the system. It was one of the key decisions in signing a player like Pedro from Barcelona, though the move didn’t exactly work out.
When others failed to pull their weight, Mourinho had little hesitation in dropping them – most memorably Eden Hazard, who he had facilitated by switching Cesar Azpilicueta to left-back, increasing the protection on that flank.
With Memphis, his in-game intelligence is a problem. Yes, it’s always tough for a player newly-arrived in the Premier League but Martial’s magnificence has magnified the Dutch winger’s difficulties. Concentration and discipline are problem-areas for him and, he’s been speaking recently about the difficulty in being dropped to the bench.
Mourinho won’t like that sort of attitude. For him, players are rewarded for hard work – they’re not in the team because of anything else unless you have special dispensation and are majorly contributing to the side’s heartbeat.
It’s up to Memphis whether or not he’ll want to listen and learn. His first season indicates he won’t but he’ll be given a chance to turn it around.
Rojo’s signing was a clear example of how a World Cup can make a player’s career. In Brazil, he was part of an Argentine defence that conceded four goals in the entire tournament – three of them in the group-stage and the other during extra-time of the final.
He appeared solid if unspectacular at left-back and frustrated van Gaal’s Dutch side in the semi-finals.
But his time at Old Trafford has been strewn with errors. Lacking the physicality for centre-half, van Gaal dropped Daley Blind back to partner Chris Smalling and only because of Luke Shaw’s serious injury did Rojo find himself still part of the starting XI.
As a full-back, he lacks the skill and the pace and the quality in delivery while there are serious question marks about his discipline after coming back for pre-season training last year having gained substantial weight.
Mourinho doesn’t suffer fools gladly and it’s inevitable Rojo will be moved on.
Yes, he’s still there.
My standout memory of the Belgian international is when I saw him in Hamburg last November when he was on loan at Borussia Dortmund.
He was named on the bench by Thomas Tuchel for what turned out to be a surprising 3-1 defeat to the local side.
During the halftime break, he had a kick-about with a couple of team mascots and you wondered whether it was a really sweet moment or a sad one.
He seemed genuinely lost.
He was introduced later in the game as Dortmund trailed and was clever in possession but never had that extra yard of pace to properly get past a full-back. His slight frame remains an issue as well as the positional problem.
Where is he strongest and most effective? Does he have the aggression to play through the middle? If Juan Mata is going to struggle to get game-time there under Mourinho, you’d imagine Januzaj can only dream of it.
And does he have what it takes to be a winger? As a lightweight, still unproven player, probably not.
Then again, there’s the other side of it. As much as Januzaj has been around for a while, has he ever really had the chance to stake a proper claim at United?
Still, as mentioned earlier, Mourinho isn’t very interested in allowing players develop from within his starting XI.
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