Ahead of the 2017-18 season, I spoke to a few of the country’s top journalists, including Daniel Taylor, Henry Winter, Oliver Holt, Oliver Kay, James Ducker, Mike Keegan and Mark Ogden. They gave their views on the season ahead, who we should sell and buy, and what would constitute a successful season.
Below are some of the responses to their opinion on Mourinho’s first season and any surprises they had in the way he approached the job. Their answers in full can be read in the RoM charity season preview.
Daniel Taylor, Chief Football Writer at The Guardian.
As soon as that final whistle went in Stockholm, you knew it had been a successful season – better, in fact, than any other top-division club bar Chelsea. If United hadn’t won that night, it would certainly have changed the complexion of how we all looked back on Mourinho’s first year and to come out with nothing more than the League Cup – let’s be honest, the Community Shield is a friendly and it’s not a ‘treble’ no matter how many times Jose says it – would have made it a very stodgy season bearing in mind the league position. Instead, it is difficult to argue with two trophies. No matter how much scrutiny there has been on United, and how unsatisfactory it has all felt sometimes, the bottom line is Mourinho’s a trophy machine. He has already won as many as Liverpool and Tottenham have managed in the last decade.
I’m just surprised the club didn’t appoint him straight after Sir Alex Ferguson because if they had done they might have saved themselves an awful lot of problems in the meantime. I always thought he was the right man and I argued as well that his style of football was not as bad as it was often portrayed. That, however, was largely based on Real Madrid’s goals output and he had Cristiano Ronaldo in that team. United don’t have that luxury and there’s no point dressing it up: the football has been pretty bleak and disappointing at times. That said, there is no doubt Old Trafford feels like a happier place again and it is certainly a cut above the dross that Louis van Gaal served up.
Henry Winter, Chief Football Writer at The Times.
Two trophies, three if you count the Community Shield as Mourinho and Ibrahimovic emphatically do in the modern age where all that glitters is silver. Mourinho and, until his unfortunate injury, Ibrahimovic brought some of the old United aura back. The buzz slowly returns.
Clearly the football needs to be more attacking but the unconditional backing of the fans to the team and Mourinho was vocal and magnificent. New players often say they appreciate the power of United’s support away from home as was seen and heard in places like St Mary’s last season.
Pragmatism, frequent tactical brilliance in the biggest moments and trophies. He starts with the smaller ones and builds. He’s hard on players who need TLC like Shaw. Strong characters enjoy Mourinho. Weaker ones fade.
Oliver Holt, Chief Sports Writer at The Mail on Sunday.
I’d give it 7 out of 10. The football wasn’t great but I think most United fans would say that it was an improvement on what had gone before and that there was a sense of the club moving forward again. And the club won two trophies. I don’t really care that they were relatively minor trophies – it represents a return to a winning mentality for the club and a big step forward.
Mourinho pretty much conformed to type. His football was pragmatic and he won two trophies. I didn’t like the way he treated Luke Shaw, in particular, but that wasn’t a surprise either after the confrontational attitude he has adopted to players since his time at Real Madrid. The club’s style didn’t excite anyone but its results did.
James Ducker, Northern Football Correspondent The Daily Telegraph.
It was a strange one really. I can’t remember the success of a season resting quite so squarely on the outcome of one game. If they’d lost the Europa League final the campaign would have looked so different to how it finally panned out. A sixth place finish in the Premier League and no Champions League football would have been brought into sharp focus and the League Cup triumph would have been diminished.
Instead, two trophies (a third if you count the Community Shield as Jose Mourinho most certainly does) and Champions League qualification constitute success by any measurement. It was clear the league form was suffering by the end due to injuries and the fixture pile up, although I think Mourinho’s reluctance to rotate more earlier in the season compounded a difficult situation. There was a purple patch at one stage when there was a clear upturn in both performance and the quality of football but they looked ragged and short of ideas at times in those final few months, even if it says plenty for the new found character in that side that they found a way to win and get over the line.
United were a small, weak team under Louis van Gaal and Mourinho immediately set about bringing some height and physicality to his squad as well as adopting a tough love approach in a bid to improve the mentality of players who were or had become soft touches. Not everything worked but it was clear he felt the job was bigger than he initially believed and was pretty surprised at some of the weakness. What I like about Mourinho is how high his standards are and that’s the way it should be at a club like United.
Under David Moyes and Van Gaal, expectations were continually lowered. Mourinho
came in and said, ‘Enough is enough, raise your game and expect and deliver more’. I felt he was making strides towards improving the quality of football – and god knows, it needed improving – but the life went out of it in the second half of the season. The hope is the debilitating schedule etc. had a significant part to play in that and with no more Thursday night football United will kick on a lot next season.