By John Ryan
- Four ways in which Mourinho can further improve Manchester United
Jose Mourinho is a world class manager and most Manchester United fans can see the job he is doing to take the club back to the summit of English football. What can he do to further improve United?
While well paid sports writers pen articles telling this twice European Cup winning manager what to do or suggesting he learn from other managers he has beaten. Mourinho has his own way of doing things and is unlikely to listen.
If Mourinho does want to improve his side in ways he has not tried before then suggestions lie closer to home. When Alex Ferguson took over Manchester United in 1986 Matt Busby still had a position on the board of the club.
Ferguson embraced this and bought into Busby’s philosophy while still doing things his way. Four changes could bear fruit if the Manager is open to these changes.
Help Lukaku Develop His All Round Game
Firstly Romelu Lukaku needs to learn to play with his back to goal. When Andy Cole signed for United in January 1995. Cole had hit the net sixty eight times in eighty four games for Newcastle.
Yet in his very first Premier League game at Old Trafford there was a marked difference in his approach; He took the ball to feet and brought other players into play.
By his own admission Andrew improved his all round game and left Old Trafford with a pocket full of silverware.
While Lukaku is a more imposing figure than Cole. But his movement in the box is very similar to Cole’s at Newcastle. He likes to play facing the goal and makes runs that look fantastic when passes find him.
His flick on for Martial’s goal against Tottenham was delicious but there could be so much more to his game. At twenty four he has plenty of time to learn.
Andrew Cole was twenty three when bought by Ferguson and his willingness to work was a vital part in the team’s success. Lukaku is an intelligent player and this area of his game needs to improve.
More Width Needed
Secondly there are times when playing 4-4-2 and crossing the ball from wide will work. Most of the good play in the final third under Mourinho has been from runs into the box or crosses on the edge of it.
While the game has changed over the last twenty years and nobody is advocating the ninety crosses we saw against Fulham under Moyes, crosses excite the fans and they bring goals.
Manchester United are famed for playing with wingers. Mourinho prefers the 4-2-3-1 formation where the wide players in the ‘3’ are often strikers.
At Chelsea he had players like Damien Duff and Mateja Kezman in the role with varying degrees of success.
The holding midfielders give a solid platform and stop opponents runs but perhaps a partnership between Pogba and Matic would allow two wingers to rampage more so on the flanks as orthodox wide players.
At Swansea in the League cup we saw signs that Mourinho might be looking at those options so maybe this is something we can look forward to.
Needs To Trust His Squad Players More
Thirdly he needs to trust players of lesser ability in the middle of the park. Ferguson played John O’Shea and Darron Gibson there in the second leg of the 2011 Champions League semifinal.
He played Phil Neville and Quinton Fortune there against Arsenal. Both games were won. The message he sent out was that as a Manchester United player you are trusted to do the job picked for.
When United attack at present there is a fear of losing the ball as we saw against Huddersfield. For the first goal, once Juan Mata lost the ball Victor Lindelof backed off rather than make a tackle.
If Mourinho encourages players to take more responsibility in that area it can only improve the team. In February 2005 at Highbury John O’Shea ran onto a Paul Scholes pass and lobbed Manuel Almunia.
At present Mourinho’s midfield is more compact than Ferguson’s. But there is no reason why players cannot lift their performances to the levels that O’Shea, Gibson, Philip Neville and Quinton Fortune did when they were asked to play in the heart of United’s midfield.
It is the personality rather than the role that makes the team greater than the sum of its parts.
No Fear Of Making Mistakes
Lastly as a Manchester United defender any player should have no fear of being one on one with any striker.
In Ferguson’s autobiography he spoke of a team meeting where Steve Bruce asked who would cover him if he was marking a striker.
Ferguson was very blunt and told him that he was expected to mark his man and play football without help from others.
While Mourinho has overseen a seismic defensive improvement there is more to come from the defence.
Pallister, Bruce, Stam, Vidic, Ferdinand were all excellent defenders but they could play football too. Lindelof, Bailly, Smalling and Jones need to trust themselves against opponents.
Waving for help from the other players or expecting the holding midfielders to be in position is not always the answer.
While United are a very difficult side to break down those players should be more of a menace in the opposition half of the field.
That trust and self-assuredness will make the team stronger and will rid the team of any fear of losing the ball.
Mourinho Can Develop A More Attacking Style In Time
Jose Mourinho is putting the smile back on the faces of Manchester United fans. He is a trusted manager who has already and will continue to bring silverware to Old Trafford.
He has to listen to a lot of nonsense in the media and his ‘shuush’ gesture at the end of the Tottenham game was one back at the writers who profit by poking at him.
As his team grows in stature and achieves better results he can expand the style and ability on the pitch.
The blueprint is there from Ferguson’s time and Mourinho could go on to take his place alongside Busby and Ferguson by creating a dynasty and legacy of success and style at Old Trafford.
He is a born winner and Manchester United are lucky to have him at the helm.