By Adam Joseph
Come mothers and fathers, throughout the land, and don’t criticise, what you can’t understand, your sons and your daughters, are beyond your command, your old road is rapidly aging, please get out of the new one, if you can’t lend your hand, for the times they are a changin’…
The timeless words of Bob Dylan have never been more appropriate than now, as a new era has dawned at Manchester United with the official unveiling of José Mourinho last week.
It was classic Mourinho from the outset, as the Portuguese maestro remained as resolute and unique as ever, charming the English press and setting the tone for his reign at Old Trafford from the outset:
“I am Manchester United manager. The reality is that this is a job that everyone wants and I have it.”
In recent times with the appointments of David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal have underestimated the task of managing England’s biggest club, and potentially the world’s most powerful football club (financially). It did them no favour with the fans, and they were behind the eight ball from the outset. Mourinho made it clear he is different.
“I know the responsibility and the expectation. At the same time I know the legacy. I know what’s behind me. I know what the history is and what the fans expect from me. The challenge doesn’t make me nervous because my history was always to live with big clubs’ expectations.
The former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Inter Milan boss certainly does understand the responsibility and expectation, and knows with the backing of the club he has very little excuse not to return them to where they belong in English and European football.
“Manchester United is a Champions League club. We have to make sure that, in July 2017, instead of waiting for the Europa League play-offs and then the group draw, this club is where it has to be; the Champions League.”
There were also patented shots taken at clubs who had not won trophies in 10 years, philosophies and more classic Mourinho jibes. He is ready to re-establish the hatred once felt for the Red Devils that has dissipated, and he expects the very best of himself and the club during what is hopefully a long and successful era.
“I want everything. I want to win matches, play well, play young players, score goals, not concede goals.”
It sets the tone from the very beginning, and fans have reason to be excited for a completely different era from what has been experienced the last three seasons since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. Mourinho’s already begun moulding his squad, and let slip the third new signing announcement before the club could do it officially.
“I don’t know. (Mourinho then turns to the press officer and asks: ‘The third player is already official or not?’ She replies: ‘No.’ Mourinho asks: ‘So the third player will be official, when?’ Press officer replies: ‘Soon’).”
He also seeked to separate himself from Van Gaal’s multi-functional player approach, explaining his preference for specialists. Mourinho has always preferred two players for everyone position, and that seems to be what he will do. That means a cull is due, with far more than that currently in the first team squad.
According to reports in the Daily Record (Duncan Castles, a man close to the Mourinho camp), Juan Mata, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Daily Blind and Marcos Rojo will all be a part of the clear out, and Ryan Giggs has already left the club after he was denied the job he felt he deserved. But Mourinho again exerted his authority on that issue, being blunt when questioned about it.
“I can say it’s not my responsibility that Ryan Giggs is not in the club. The job that Ryan wanted was the one the club decided to give to me. It’s not my fault. He wanted to be Manchester United manager. The reasons the owners, the board, they can tell you that they decided the job was for me.”
It might not be a big deal to some, but this is the sort of manager Manchester United has needed since the departure of their mainstay Sir Alex. A manager with the brutal confidence to tell it as he sees it without a worry of how it’s portrayed. Moyes and Van Gaal were too quick to defend themselves and their actions.
Van Gaal would back himself in, but was only considerate of himself. Moyes couldn’t even do that. Mourinho understands the task at hand, the decisions he must make to achieve what’s expected of him and the courage to actually make them. The perfect example was his response to the Wayne Rooney conundrum, whose been made a midfielder over the past several months for club and country.
“Maybe he is not a striker anymore. Maybe he is not a No 9 anymore but with me he will never be a No 6. He will never be 50 metres from the goal. You can tell me his pass is amazing, and yes it is, but my pass is also amazing without pressure.
For me, he will be a No 9 or a No 10, or a number nine-and-a-half, but not a No 6, not even a No 8.”
It was surprisingly clear, and many were startled to hear it considering Rooney’s comments in May (that his future was in midfield) and also because he’d spent the entire European Championships spraying passes around the pitch from central midfield.
Mourinho understands however that no matter what Manchester United try, Rooney is a square peg in a round hole in midfield. It’s his natural position at number ten or spearheading the attack, and if he cannot hold his place there he doesn’t belong at the club.
José Mourinho has well and truly arrived, with Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan joining him already. 3 fundamental signings with another one on the way (dare we say Paul Pogba incoming) with supplementary signings to join them if Mourinho thinks they are required, including an experienced central defender.
It’s a whole era for Ed Woodward, Mourinho and Manchester United. The times, they are a changin’.
Adam Joseph is a freelance writer from Australia. Manchester United fan from back when they were the only team on Australian TV and it was love at first sight. Manchester United, Oklahoma City Thunder, New England Patriots and Carlton Blues fanatic. If it’s sport related, I’ll talk about it.
Follow him on twitter @AdamJosephSport