Jose Mouri­hno is run­ning out of ideas at Man U

The Manica Post - - Sport -

MANCH­ESTER, Eng­land — It would be apt if, when Jose Mour­inho heads back to his suite at the Lowry Ho­tel just un­der three miles from Old Traf­ford and trudges up the stairs with his head full of Manch­ester United’s lat­est fail­ure to win, he dis­cov­ers that his room key does not work in the door.

Quite sim­ply, noth­ing he tries is com­ing off, and Wed­nes­day’s 2-2 draw vs. Arse­nal was the lat­est ex­am­ple.

It never used to be like this. Mour­inho used to be called —jus­ti­fi­ably — the Spe­cial One, and back in those days, he could sub­sti­tute a player half­way through the first half and make it look like a stroke of ge­nius.

He could walk into a press room 24 hours be­fore a Cham­pi­ons League clash against Barcelona in the Camp Nou and boldly name his start­ing lineup with­out fear of the op­po­si­tion mak­ing him pay for his supreme con­fi­dence.

He could cir­cum­vent a UEFA touch­line ban by sneak­ing into the chang­ing room in a laun­dry skip at Bay­ern Mu­nich to de­liver an unau­tho­rised team talk.

Those were the days when Mour­inho could try al­most any­thing and come out the win­ner. He was bold and au­da­cious, full of swag­ger and self-belief, and when he made a big de­ci­sion, you knew that it would come off.

But those days are gone. He can no longer sum­mon the ge­nie from the lamp, and it is be­com­ing a painful process to watch him try.

On Wed­nes­day night, Mour­inho at­tempted to give his team a spark by drop­ping the club’s two most ex­pen­sive sign­ings, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, to the sub­sti­tutes’ bench. The move was note­wor­thy be­cause of their names, though in fair­ness to Mour­inho, nei­ther player has done much in re­cent weeks to jus­tify his place in the team.

Pogba’s care­less and half-paced per­for­mances do not re­flect his £89 mil­lion price tag, while Lukaku’s fail­ure to score since mid-Septem­ber — a bar­ren run that ended vs. Southamp­ton at the week­end — made him look vastly over­priced at a club record £90 mil­lion.

Nei­ther Pogba nor Lukaku dis­play body lan­guage, which sug­gests that they are bust­ing a gut for the cause, but to drop both for such a big game — Arse­nal kicked off eight points clear of United — was a huge gam­ble by Mour­inho.

For it to pay off, he re­ally needed his team to be vic­to­ri­ous, but after a bright start, they did not look like get­ting three points against Unai Emery’s men, who twice took the lead and were un­for­tu­nate not to emerge with vic­tory.

United’s lat­est fail­ure to win left Mour­inho on the back foot after the game, so much so that he dodged ques­tions about his se­lec­tion de­ci­sion, go­ing only so far as to say that Pogba “came on and gave a good con­tri­bu­tion.”

The man­ager at­tempted to put a pos­i­tive spin on the re­sult, de­spite leav­ing his team lan­guish­ing in eighth po­si­tion — be­low Bournemouth — by re­mind­ing the world that, “the last four matches, we didn’t lose.” Pep Guardi­ola, 18 points clear of United at the top of the ta­ble with Manch­ester City, will not be wak­ing in the mid­dle of the night on the back of such a run.

Mour­inho’s tac­tics have failed to move with the times and the sight of Marouane Fel­laini be­ing in­tro­duced in the clos­ing stages was an­other sign that so­lu­tions are run­ning short.

The Fel­laini trick worked against Young Boys in the Cham­pi­ons League last week, when the Bel­gian mid­fielder scored a stop­page-time win­ner, and he also set­tled last sea­son’s league game against Arse­nal with an­other late goal.

But when your last roll of the dice is to “throw on the big man” in the hope that he might get his head on a long ball, it re­ally is scrap­ing the bar­rel.

What else does Mour­inho have up his sleeve? Will he take his United team to Liver­pool on Dec. 16 and sur­prise Ju­r­gen Klopp with a bold, at­tack­ing dis­play, or will we once again see a re­peat of the past two trips to An­field — both of which ended in dis­mal 0-0 stale­mates — after Mour­inho sent his team out to de­fend above all else?

This is the prob­lem with Mour­inho: When he tries to sur­prise, the tac­tic does not work, but when he rolls out the old game plan, that does not work, ei­ther.

He is run­ning out of ideas, and United are pay­ing a heavy price. — BBC SPORT

Jose Mour­inho

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Zimbabwe

© PressReader. All rights reserved.