Mourinho is already starting to create a legacy at Old Trafford. It took him less than a season at helm of the famous club to win his first trophy. Furthermore, not only that he increased his total trophy tally, but, coincidentally, it was this trophy that equaled Liverpool’s record of 41 major trophies. It’s the least important of three big trophies in England, but nevertheless it could mark the start of a great journey that United’s fans are waiting ever since Ferguson left them.
Mourinho’s start at Manchester was much of a bumpy ride. An urgent need to oversee rebuilding of, not so long ago, crowned England champions, and a squad full of non-selectively signed reinforcements, while facing the pressure of satisfying the fans, never made it easy for the Portuguese. He knew the size of the task before he took it. He was openly lobbying for a position even while van Gaal was at the helm of the club. After the sacking at Chelsea, Mourinho wanted a revenge, but not any kind of revenge – he wanted to surpass his achievement with the London club. What else place is better for that than to go to Manchester, to the club lost in disarray after another great manager waved United’s faithfuls final goodbye.
When it became clear that Mourinho will get his shot, he already had the team assessed. He knew what ingredients he needs and insisted on buying them. Management gave their blessings and Mourinho made a record transfer with Pogba, rocking the market once more. Even if the Frenchman is still being heavily criticized and there is an ever-present feeling how he never quite fit Mourinho’s philosophy, nor that the Portuguese managed to find him an appropriate place, there is another player who is stealing the show. Ibrahimovic, the man Mourinho adores, is taking Premier League by a storm.
Even at the late stage of his career, regularly facing the doubters in his abilities, he is raising like a phoenix and being reborn every season, over and over again. It seems as this player is indestructible. He is scoring and many time this season he bailed out United with his important goals.
His goal tally is impressive. His 26 goals in 38 appearances this season made him arguably the best United’s shopping after Ferguson’s departure. Mourinho, whose first Chelsea era was marked by another strong striker – Didier Drogba, knew the immediate impact Ibrahimovic would provide. With Ferguson departure, Manchester lost not only their fear factor, but also their winning mentality. Everyone saw spineless United under Moyes and van Gaal. It was not the team to fear, the team to beat. Old Trafford lost the aura of one of the hardest soils to play for visitors. This, once fearful team, became just another day in the office, even for the mid-table Premier League teams.
Mourinho knew it and he knew what exactly he needs to do how to bring that back. He needed not just any reinforcements, but players with personality. He needed players with indestructible personality, who smile back at their critics and bite back. Ibrahimovic was his main target! He wanted him at any cost. The truth to be told, he needed to do not too much. All he needed, according to Ibrahimovic, was to phone him ant tell him his squad number. That’s how strong their relationship is.
And the big Swede came to Old Trafford. Many doubted his abilities, but the player taught to fight for success and pumped with unimaginable amount of self-belief couldn’t care any less about it. His self-confidence is so huge that it often borders with pretentiousness. Many don’t like it but his performances oblige them for respect.
As much as Mourinho is changing the team from the bench, Ibrahimovic is doing it from the field. Players are learning his notion of the game – football is a man-sport and there is no place for weaknesses in it! That’s exactly the attitude Mourinho wanted. Being a psychologist with a reputation of an instant-impact manager, he knew that he can survive only if he change the psychology of the team. He brought in his first in command – Ibrahimovic – and they started changing the team together.
The results are very much visible by this point. Manchester is back in Champions league places battle, and they have won the first trophy of the season. It is not the ultimate result, winning the League Cup, but Manchester United’s fans will take just about anything offered to them after years of being lost.
Considering his bad-mannered behavior, dubious youth players policy, unclear stand on Mata, and tendency to drain his players, it is way too early to say whether Mourinho will be a success or not at United. Board will need to tolerate his methods and support him in all of his good/bad deeds. The fact is that Mourinho and Ibrahimovic are tailoring United just about the way they want it to look, according to their very own standards. They have gained the momentum. Let’s see how they build on it.