If Jose Mourinho thinks United fans will settle for anything less than the Premier League title next season, he should think again. There can be no more excuses. The Special One must prove that he is still special and that he has not passed his sell-by-date, as some contend.
The fact is that it’s been three seasons since Mourinho last savoured league title success, guiding Chelsea to victory in 2014-2015. Since then, he has seen Leicester claim an unlikely title, and Pep Guardiola, now fully acquainted with English football, able to impose his relentless attacking style on the Premier League. There is a feeling that it will take a new kind of tactic to beat Pep’s City, and question marks over whether Mourinho is up to the task.
While his CV speaks for itself, Mourinho has never been noted for tactical innovation. There is a general consensus that his strategy relies largely on expensively-assembled squads, nullifying the opposition’s strengths, stout defending and the presence of a muscular, deadly finisher (think Didier Drogba, Diego Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo). That said, he did guide two unfancied teams, Porto and Inter, to Champions League glory, but those were in Cup situations, and not over the duration of a full league season. Meanwhile, the two league titles he won at Inter were with largely the same team assembled by Roberto Mancini when he guided them to three successive Scudettos prior to Mourinho’s arrival.
Mourinho has been quoted as saying he won’t spend big this summer. That suggests that either a) he believes his team is only a few tweaks away from the finished article (which sounds delusional), or b) he is admitting that there is no point in spending big because United are too far behind City to bridge the gap, in which case he has already thrown in the towel.
If, as many expect, Mourinho can’t get one over on Pep next season, he will have to admit that he is no longer the Special One but the Ordinary One.