Jose Mourinho has been the subject of plenty of drama recently, from his verbal spat with Antonio Conte, to trouble with the FA, to where he may possibly manage at the start of the 2018-19 season. Reports about his commitment have been reoccurring for the last few months due to Jose’s own comments about PSG and how he loved Paris as a city, which added to the rumours suggesting he may replace Unai Emery at the end of the season.
These reports have caused United fans to think about what United should do to get back to its previous high standards, regardless of whether Jose stays or not. Whether or not Mourinho is the man to do it, things have to change at Old Trafford.
The first thing the club should do is promote Javier Ribalta to Director of Football. This would help United massively as it would mean that there is someone on the board who knows about football, rather than just knowing how to make money. It would also help Ed Woodward as there would be someone else responsible for the transfers and Woodward can go back to his own job which he does well. It would also provide a middle man between the manager and the board which the club has lacked since David Gill left.
Secondly, United should prioritise the signing of younger players in the transfer market. This would enable us to build a team to last several years in the Premier League who can develop and then dominate over time, rather than buying stop gap players who are older and will only last a few years, before becoming deadwood who are hard to shift due to their wages. This would help keep the ethos of the club and this can be possible with the help of Ribalta, who is an expert in finding young, talented players across many leagues.
If Mourinho was to leave, the focus of the club should be finding a coach, rather than a new manager, and this coach should have a more attacking approach, which is something the club has sorely missed since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
There are numerous coaches who are available but the only ones who should be pursued by the club are Thomas Tuchel, Mauricio Pochettino and Leonardo Jardim. These three put an emphasis on attacking football and are all tactically diverse, to the same extent that Jose is. Their appointment would be especially important for some of the younger players like Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial who would benefit from the help of a more attack-minded coach to improve their attacking structures or lack of these structures, and, more importantly, the academy players who will have coaches who will provide them with opportunities to get into the first team.
However, it is looking as if it is more likely that Jose will stay at the club beyond the season, and even sign a contract extension, which would be the most preferable option. Antonio Conte has been linked to the PSG job by many reputable journalists and Jose has insisted that he is committed to the job in hand.
A number of things must happen to see him recreate the success he’s enjoyed at every other post though. The first thing Jose needs to do is get rid of the players who aren’t up to standard, which is one of the most important tasks to complete in order for him to compete with Manchester City. Players like Matteo Darmian, Maroaune Fellaini and Daley Blind should not be first team players for a club that needs to compete on all fronts when there are better options available who could start for us. This would help reduce the wage bill and provide more money for Jose to buy signings in the transfer market.
Similarly, Jose would need to form a good relationship with an appointed Director of Football, ideally the aforementioned Ribalta, so that they could buy specialists in each position who are younger, but then bring in a player in their prime who is a little bit older, like Mesut Ozil, Antoine Griezmann or Riyad Mahrez. This would help the club in the future, as the squad that is being constructed would still have years ahead of them, but also have the experience which Jose craves in his teams.
Jose also needs to start adding some of the academy players like Tim Fosu-Mensah, Callum Gribbin and Axel Tuanzebe into the first team squad, as they are great players who now need a chance to play first team football rather than rotting in the reserves.
Lastly, Jose needs to change the formation, which is something he has already started to address since the New Year, to a 4-3-3 or a 3-5-2. This allows Paul Pogba to play in his preferred position, the left side of midfield, where he thrived when playing for Juventus. It also allows players like Martial and Romelu Lukaku to flourish with the added support of Pogba in his natural position. This will help the team perform better as a unit, as was already shown in our game against Everton and, to a lesser extent, against Derby. We played some of our best attacking football and Pogba had one of his best performances in a United shirt when he played at Goodison Park.
To conclude, whether Jose stays or not, it’s clear that United need to make big changes for us to be able to compete with City and big clubs in Europe. The most important change is bringing in a quality Director of Football, to allow United to progress and make the changes that were initially required from then when Sir Alex retired.
If we made these changes it would be possible for United to maintain its high standards and be the club that we all know and love again.