So for the third time in four years United go into a new season with a new manager, a new coaching team and a handful of new players. We have said it before, but after years of stability this period has felt like a period of revolution. David Moyes felt like a watered down version of Sir Alex Ferguson, more formulaic and hesitant maybe, a manager lacking the confidence and conviction for the United hot seat, but his strategies were broadly similar to what we had seen before if a little less dynamic. Louis van Gaal tried to change the footballing culture of the club, he had the confidence and the certainty in his formulaic philosophy which can be seen now almost as a reaction to Moyes doubts, but he had too much certainty and United fans faith in his methods ebbed away as he struggled to make his formula work in the Premier League. Make no mistake however a lot of the ground work undertaken by Van Gaal will stand the club in good stead as we move forward now so we should thank Louis for that; that and a trophy.
So to Jose Mourinho who could be seen as a manager with both the certainty and confidence for the hot seat, the courage of his convictions and a pragmatic method focused on success that has been proven to work in the Premier League before. A time for optimism then?
All the coaching staff Louis van Gaal’s brought with him to the club have left with him and in their place Jose Mourinho has brought in his own team. So out have gone Albert Stuivenberg, Frans Hoek and Marcel Bout. Perhaps most notable of all though is the departure of Ryan Giggs. Having been a player at the club from junior level and throughout the glory years of Sir Alex reign as manager this was bound to be emotional. Since Sir Alex retirement he has served as assistant manager to the two successors and as an interim manager after the dismissal of David Moyes. Whatever the “whys and wherefores” of whether he could or would have wanted to serve as a member of Jose Mourinho’s back room team it felt like time for Giggs to spread his wings and earn the right to return as a United manager someday by proving his worth as a elsewhere. In truth if he can’t do that he is probably not right for the United hot seat. Time will tell.
In comes Rui Fairia, Emilio Alvarez, Ricardo Formosinho, Silvino Louro, Carlos Lalin and Giovanni Cerra, all of whom have worked with Mourinho before. It’s a feature of his career as manager as he has passed from club to club that Mourinho has often tried to take with him from club to club the best of his coaching staff from his previous club, so adding to his trusted team the best from each clubs pre-existing back room team.
Rui Faria has worked with Mourinho since Jose second managerial job at União de Leiria back in 2001, at first as a fitness coach and then as assistant manager since Mourinho’s first spell as Chelsea manager in 2004. Faria did not play professional football at the top level and like Mourinho (and Van Gaal) is a physical education graduate. A controversial character he has been sent-off from the bench in the past.
Emilio Alvarez will be familiar to David de Gea as Alvarez was the goalkeeping coach who persuades Atletico Madrid to sign the player as a youngster. He mentored him through his early years in Madrid until he moved on to United. Alvarez joins United as goalkeeping coach.
Rui Faria, Emilio Alvarez and Ricardo Formosinho
Ricardo Formosinho played with Mourinho’s father at Vitoria Setubal. He has since managed widely without any significant success. He has previously worked with Mourinho as an assistant coach at Porto where Mourinho achieved his first successes. He later worked again with him at Real Madrid this time as a scout, the role he has joined United to fulfil.
Silvino Louro is a former goalkeeper who spent the best years of his playing career at Benfica but also featured late in his career at Porto. A full Portuguese international he started at his and Mourinho’s home town club Vitoria Setubal and has worked with Mourinho as a goalkeeping coach since Jose’s first spell at Chelsea.
Silvino Louro, Carlos Lalin and Giovanni Cerra
Carlos Lalin is Spanish and joins United as fitness coach having worked with Mourinho at Real Madrid before following our new Manager to Chelsea in 2013. He will be charged with improving United’s woeful recent fitness record. Good luck with that!
Giovanni Cerra is an analyst. He has worked with Mourinho since his time at Inter. He joins a pre-existing team of analysts at the club.
At the time of writing there wasn’t been many departures, only Victor Valdes has left the club, joining newly promoted Middlesbrough. Paddy McNair looks likely to be the second departure with Sunderland agreeing a joint fee for him and youngster Donald Love. In addition to that departure Guillermo Varela has joined Eintracht Frankfurt on a season long loan and Bastian Scweinsteigger has been told he is surplus to requirements. We would expect Jose Mourinho to further trim the squad before the transfer window closes. Tyler Blackett and James Wilson haven’t been given squad numbers so they appear likely to either be loaned out or sold. Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Memphis Depay and Adnan Januzaj all missed out on a squad place for the Charity Shield so appear vulnerable. That is all speculation of course so we will all just have to wait and see.
Jose Mourinho announced in his first press conference that he had identified four key areas where he wished to strengthen to re-balance the squad. At that point two players to fill those “player profiles” as he later referred to them had been recruited in Eric Bailly and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. A third judging by his pointed remarks in the press conference was an imminent arrival. The following day Henrkh Mkhitaryan was announced as a new United player making it three out of four. What Mourinho is clearly doing here is strengthening the spine of the team with power, pace and character.
Eric Bailly is potential. Mourinho has admitted that but already in pre-season he looks a great prospect. He has pace, strength and defensive alertness. He needs to be careful that he doesn’t get too touch tight to players; judgement is something that only comes to most with experience and the judgement of whether to go tight to a player or drop off behind him is key to a central defender.
Where will Zlatan Ibrahimovic play. Number 10 or as a central striker? Does it matter; he is strong, inventive and adds a touch of unpredictability with the skill to back it up. He has long had his doubters in England so may feel he has something to prove. That’s no bad thing and as a player with bags full of belief he has the courage and character often missing from United teams in recent years. His “bromance” with Jose is well known, he could be Jose’s Eric or Manchester’s God? We shall see but two things are for sure he is a winner and he is box office.
It was a case of “Henrkh who?” for many when Mkhitaryan joined the club. At 27 his career has seen a gradual upward trajectory from youth football in his native Armenia, but he was voted in the Bundesliga team of the year last year, playing as a number 10 for Borussia Dortmund his goals and assist statistics were impressive. Already in pre-season he has caught the eye with his inventiveness and vision. He is another player who strengthens the spine and will hopefully provide an ability to play through the middle of the pitch, something United have struggled to do in the last few seasons.
The final priority signing has only just been announce of course; Paul Pogba. We all know all about him as he was previously a player at the club as a youngster. He has matured since then and is now almost the complete box-to-box midfield player. We say almost for whilst he is a mouth-watering signing he can’t do everything; his positional discipline needs work but as that is a Mourinho speciality he will no doubt sort that out. A dynamic assertive midfield player who will provide energy and creativity his displays for France this summer also highlight that he isn’t well suited to a role as a defensive or holding midfield role. He should be played further forward and given more freedom. He is the first truly high quality box-to-box midfield player we have had at United since Roy Keane and his qualities give Mourinho tactical options. For www.manutdtactics.com he is the key signing of United’s summer.
We don’t intend to say too much about Jose preferred tactical methods here as we have written about this elsewhere, see http://manutdtactics.com/?p=6510, but we would outline a few key issues. Jose’s teams seek to dominate the middle of the pitch, not necessarily in terms of possession but instead through a combination of possession and space manipulation. That is one of the reasons why his teams always look solid. The main strategy to do this is his trivote; that is his preference to always keep three players tight to each other in the centre of the pitch. They avoid overloads in this area, sometimes they press, sometimes they drop off, sometimes they control the ball and rest in possession, sometimes they control space forming a low block but he will always look to avoid his team suffering overloads in the middle of the pitch. Having won the ball they may spread it wide or pass through the middle and having both options makes them more in control and menacing in transitions. Whatever the match situation and whatever the appropriate method at any given time, whoever the opponent Jose will look for his trivote to control the game.
So those are the changes so far, but given that in his first press conference after identifying the four key areas where Mourinho felt it was a necessity that the squad was strengthened he then went on to say that after concluding that priority business there may then be more activity to add additional strength. With the transfer window still open to the end of August there may still be more changes in the weeks to come. These changes will almost certainly mean a few players leaving, on loan or permanent deals, but could also see other new arrivals.