Jose Mourinho says his debut season at Manchester United has been his toughest year as a coach. The fact that whether it was a successful season or not came down to the very last game of the season in the Europa League final vs. Ajax, where a win would cap an ‘acceptable’ season. Following their good win over Ajax, in what could be described as a typical final ‘Mourinho performance’, United managed to complete the haul of all European and domestic trophies. No need to say that a loss would have been, at the very least ‘catastrophic’, with no Champions League Football the following year, and the fact that United would not be able to attract the top players to Old Trafford without Champions League Football.
So after the final, The United manager was asked if success this year now depended on winning the Europa League.
He replied: “You (the media) have the right to say – and it makes sense to say. But I don’t feel like that and do not want the players to feel like that. And I don’t think board feel like that. Because we worked hard. This season I worked harder than ever so I don’t think that way.
“If I was in your chair, it is fair. We won the League Cup and Community Shield and until injuries arrived we fought for the Premier League top four. We had fantastic record for 25 games and did things not everyone has done at Manchester United in a first season – winning a trophy and reaching a European final. But if I was on your side and looking for this kind of headlines I accept if you say that.”
Mourinho was always insistent that Champions League Football was the club’s priority and that the Europa league represented the best chance of this happening, especially after the loss against Arsenal at the Emirates, where United where coming from an unbeaten streak of 25 games in the league, but obviously many of those games ended up in draws.
“But for us, it’s the trophy and the Champions League for the next season and they finish the league this weekend”.
So I will summaries United’s season in the following:
So, how did it go?
Not brilliant but not bad at all. Jose Mourinho targeted the title and finished sixth. There were fewer wins and more draws for United than any other season in the Premier League era.
Mourinho will argue that he prioritized Europe over the Premier League, but ultimately he had no choice. United won 3 trophies, and had some good moments in the season. The fact that United finished a disappointing sixth in the league, and with so many draws, something will be needed to be addressed for the following season, which could mean four new signings for United.
Player of the season?
For me it was a choice between Antonio Valencia, Ander Herrera and Zlatan. An obvious choice would be Zlatan Ibrahimovic with his 28 goals, but Herrera has emerged as arguably United’s most effective player under Mourinho, filling a number of different roles for the team and giving them leadership in the middle of the park with his positive attitude, above all.
It has to be Ibrahimovic’s emphatic 87th-minute winner in the EFL Cup final at Wembley after United had surrendered a two-goal lead against Southampton. Luckily enough, I was there to witness it. It was also a brilliant cross from Herrera. It was a must win trophy for United, as the season would have been totally different.
The 3-1 defeat at Watford in September that saw United lose for the third time in a week (Man City and Feyenoord were the others) after a 100 per cent start, although Mourinho may well say it was a 4-0 humiliation on his return to Chelsea in October. Also for 2 games in a row, we conceded 2 goals in the first minute vs. Fenerbahce in the Europa League and the game where we lost 4-0 to Chelsea. This is completely unacceptable. (Both away).
How did the manager get on?
Considering the expectation surrounding Mourinho’s appointment and the signings of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it’s been just about satisfactory but no more than that.
Winning the Europa League means that it was a good season.
What can they improve in the summer?
I think it will be a good advantage that there is no World Cup or European Cup this summer and Mourinho can have all his players report for training very early. This could be a very big advantage. Hopefully the signings will be made early on, so that they will be able to integrate more with the team.
Wayne Rooney, in my opinion, is likely to stay, as no club can match his current GBP250, 000 salary, and his playing time will be severely restricted, especially as expected Mourinho will sign another striker to replace Ibrahimovic. Rooney missed a great opportunity when Mourinho gave him all the chances in the world to prove he still has a future, but it is sad to see such a great striker, lose so much and is now regarded as an average player.
As mentioned before Mourinho will make 4 signings. They also need to replace Zlatan’s goals desperately as I feel that it is not yet fair to rely on Rashford. Also, the center of the defense seems to be a big issue, as there is no stability in that there has never been a solid partnership over the past year. The left back position has become problematic, as United cannot rely on Luke Shaw, as he is very injury prone. So I see Mourinho buying a left back and also a fast winger, and I am sure that Douglas Costa of Bayern Munich will fit the bill. He has been left out at Bayern this year with the return of Robben, Ribery and the emergence of Koman, who Ancelotti tends to favour.