Up until 12 days ago, the Jose Mourinho era at Manchester United had begun in glowing fashion, with three wins from a possible three.
In the space of just a week, however, possible questions have emerged. Is it possible then that the Mourinho magic is fading?
Wednesday night’s EFL Cup win over Northampton Town stopped the rot but, honestly, any other result would have been a footballing disaster for The Red Devils.rot but, honestly, any other result would have been a footballing disaster for The Red Devils.
There is no doubt that Mourinho’s stock has suffered a blow, but let’s ask if his influence is also on the wane?
Before looking for an answer to the above question, it should be stressed that Mourinho’s achievements in the game cannot in any way be overstated or understated.
As one of only three managers to have won the European Cup in its current Champions League form, Mourinho creates an exclusive club with only Ottmar Hitzfeld and Carlo Ancelotti as the other members.
The trio remain the only ones to have lifted the trophy as a manager with two different clubs.remain the only ones to have lifted the trophy as a manager with two different clubs.
As such, the 53-year-old is rightly heralded as one of modern football’s most decorated stewards.
Arriving at Old Trafford in the summer, the Portuguese tactician was hailed as the man to return the club to glory. Indeed, after three consecutive domestic wins, United were sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League tree and a perfect start would have given fans a reason to believe that the old invincibility factor has returned.
MOURINHO’S PROGRESS HITS THE BUFFERS
Manchester United’s last 270 minutes of game time prior to their win over The Cobblers has led many to question Jose Mourinho’s appointment at the club.
One could argue the former Real Madrid and Inter Milan coach had taken a far more reserved approach since his time in West London, given his defensive set-up.
However, in the light of his predecessor’s rather reclusive style of play, some quarters of the United’s fan base believe that the man in the hot seat is not the most appropriate person for the job.
What would have concerned Mourinho’s critics most were the events at Vicarage Road last Sunday.
Trailing 2-1, the visitors flung the proverbial kitchen sink at Watford. Their methods, however, were eerily similar to last term’s fiercely criticised approach.
The return of the long-ball game was met with the raising of eyebrows amongst the fans, with little to separate it from Louis van Gaal’s approach last season.
Are we still seeing the ugly side of his predecessor’s game, still etched into the make-up of Manchester United’s play?
After tearing up the playbook from last season, it was always going to take some time to hammer out Van Gaal’s ways at United. Mourinho himself protested to this past week.
RECORD SUGGESTS A POOR START IN MANCHESTER
If we look at Mourinho’s record on the continent, United’s blip in form does make for an alarming viewing for the Portuguese manager.
It was a similar story in Milan. Winning three of the opening five in 2008, the Nerazzurri had lost just twice in Serie A until January 2009. By the end of the term, Inter had recorded just four losses.
Again with Real Madrid during the 2010-11 term, Los Blancos drew the opener, before winning 10 of their first dozen games – also losing just four times during the season.
Although league football has evolved, the two losses have already left the United boss playing catch up. So is the magic fading?
MOURINHO LOOKS TO REDISCOVER WINNING FORMULA
In the midst of trying times, Saturday’s visit of reigning champions Leicester City becomes all the more vital in answering that question.
Like Moyes and Van Gaal, Mourinho is juggling fan pressure regarding Wayne Rooney, with world-record signing Paul Pogba yet to make an impact on his return.
As new faces struggle to gel, it is too soon to answer the question with any real certainty. Defeat to The Foxes this weekend, however, might leave quite a few more for Jose Mourinho to face.