Seven times Jose Mourinho got it spot on about Manchester United

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s spell in charge of Manchester United has made us reconsider how we look back on Jose Mourinho’s reign at the club.

The Portuguese coach was sacked in December 2018 after two-and-a-half years at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils were sixth in the Premier League at the time of Mourinho’s dismissal, 19 points behind leaders Liverpool.

Yet there were highs under Mourinho, including winning the League Cup and Europa League in 2017.

And being sixth in the Premier League is a position that Manchester United fans would take right now.

Mourinho was derided for many of his decisions and comments while he was the boss but, 10 months on from his departure, it turns out he was often correct.

We’ve picked out seven things Mourinho was right about at Man United.

1. Finishing second in 2017/18 was an incredible accomplishment

Mourinho genuinely believed that leading the Red Devils to a runners-up finish ranked among his greatest career achievements.

“I keep saying and thinking and feeling that the second last season was one of my biggest achievements in the game,” he said.

Mourinho has won league titles in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain, and won the treble with Inter Milan in 2009/10.

So to claim that the 2017/18 season is up there reeked of self-preservation.

But he insisted it was the case even after he was sacked.

“I keep saying this because people don’t know what is going on behind the scenes,” he added.

Yet Man United are currently showing that Mourinho finishing second, comfortably ahead of Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea, was a remarkable feat.

The current squad isn’t too dissimilar to the one Mourinho had – it even has a decent centre-back – but Solskjaer can only dream of a second-placed finish right now.

2. Scott McTominay deserves to play

Mourinho is often criticised for not giving young players an opportunity but he saw something in Scott McTominay.

The Scottish midfielder was given regular opportunities in midfield and Mourinho used him as an example to the rest of his squad, naming him his own Player of the Year in 2018.

“He is the one that did everything,” Mourinho said.

“He started the season in the Academy and ends the season playing in big matches, in Premier League derbies and Champions League matches, while becoming an important player for the squad.”

“So I thought this kid cannot go home without an award, so he’s going to get my award.”

McTominay has remained in the first-team, appearing in every league game so far this season, and he’s become a very popular figure among the club’s fans for his attitude and desire.

3. Marcus Rashford isn’t a No.9

The arrivals of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku at Old Trafford increase concerns surrounding Marcus Rashford’s position.

Many fans wanted to see him through the middle instead of on the flank, but the signing of two recognised strikers in each of Mourinho’s first two summers didn’t bode well for the England international.

And so he was often pushed out to the wings under the Portuguese coach.

But has Rashford ever proved that he deserves to play through the middle?

Per Transfermarkt, he has scored 18 goals in 59 league matches while playing as a centre-forward. That’s hardly prolific.

Centre-back Harry Maguire had more touches inside Newcastle’s box than Rashford did in United’s 1-0 defeat to the Magpies on Sunday.

“I am not going to say he cannot ever be a number nine, he can be a dangerous number nine especially if the opposition is not pragmatic, is not close and is giving spaces to attack. He can be dangerous in transitions,” Mourinho said in a recent appearance on Sky Sports.

“But when Manchester United is a team that normally plays against teams who go to Old Trafford, close the door, bring the bus, bring the double bus, he is not a striker to play with his back to the goal.

“He is not the target man, he doesn’t score as many goals as a striker should do.

“So I think from the side you will get him to numbers of 10-12 goals per season.”

4. Andreas Pereira isn’t the answer

Solskjaer appears to admire Brazilian midfielder Andreas Pereira where Mourinho certainly didn’t.

He spent two seasons under Mourinho out on loan – the first with Granada and the second with Valencia – but the United boss was disappointed with his desire to spend a second campaign away from Manchester instead of fighting for a spot at the club.

“His was a personal decision that I don’t agree with, a decision I don’t think honestly is the best decision for him, a decision that disappoints me,” Mourinho said.

“He has the potential to be fighting for a position, fighting for opportunities and fighting to be a Manchester United player.”

Pereira was given another chance in the 2018/19 season, starting in the opening weekend, but he was hauled off at half-time the following week and didn’t start another match until December.

The 23-year-old hasn’t lived up to the hype – Louis van Gaal wasn’t convinced by him, either – but Solskjaer continues to use him in his team.

He doesn’t improve Man United.

5. Paul Pogba can’t be trusted

The France international was reportedly labelled a “virus” by Mourinho after Man United drew 2-2 with Southampton last December.

“You don’t respect players and supporters. And you kill the mentality of the good honest people around you,” Mourinho said to Pogba, per The Sun.

“You are like a person with a flu, with a virus in a closed room – you pass that virus to the others.”

When Mourinho was sacked by United, it was seen as a victory for Pogba. In a battle between manager and player, the World Cup winner prevailed.

But how has he repaid the club for sticking with him? By voicing his desire for a new challenge.

“I have been three years in Manchester and have been doing great – some good moments and some bad moments, like everybody, like everywhere else,” Pogba said in June.

“After this season and everything that happened, with my season being my best season… it could be a good time to have a new challenge somewhere else.”

Coupled with his inconsistent displays, it’s rather stunning that Man United are reportedly prepared to give Pogba a payrise in an attempt to get him to stay.

6. World-class defender needed

The Man United hierarchy refused to bow to Mourinho’s demands to sign a class defender in the summer of 2018.

Toby Alderweireld, Harry Maguire, Jerome Boateng and Yerry Mina were the names put forward by Mourinho but the board refused to go ahead with any of them.

It left them entering the 2018/19 season with Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof and Marcos Rojo as their centre-back options.

They only signed a centre-back after Mourinho left, spending £80m to bring Maguire to Old Trafford from Leicester City.

Yet according to the Telegraph, they could have bought Maguire for just £15m in 2017.

7. ‘Nice guy managers become puppets’

“I don’t want to be the nice guy, because the nice guy, after three months, is a puppet and that doesn’t end well.”

Those were Mourinho’s words at the end of last season, after Solskjaer’s honeymoon period had been brought to an end with six defeats in their final 10 matches.

Many took it to be a subtle dig at Solskjaer and they’re probably right.

Solskjaer is a nice guy but the fear is he won’t be strong enough to deal with those above him at Old Trafford.

The Norwegian’s spell in charge started well enough but it’s easy to wonder whether he has the fire to turn this around.

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