Jose Mourinho must build on ‘perfect foundation’ or risk pressure on his job

source: talksport

On Wednesday night, Manchester United secured Europa League glory at Ajax’s expense as they won the final 2-0 in Stockholm.

Ultimately, victory at the Friends Arena was never really in doubt once the whistle blew, even allowing for the pre-match nerves. This was manager Jose Mourinho’s 14th major cup final, after all. He’s now won 12 of those 14 finals, with United winning this trophy for the first time in their illustrious history. To go with an EFL Cup win back in February, it’s been a season of mixed emotions for United and their fans. On one hand, two trophies in Mourinho’s debut campaign at Old Trafford is a hugely commendable return and he must be applauded for delivering silverware so early on.

On the other, though, there’s a nagging sensation that the two trophies merely mask what has been an underwhelming campaign for the club. Having finished fifth in Louis van Gaal’s second and final season at the Old Trafford helm, Mourinho’s United laboured to sixth, a full seven points off a top-four finish and a whopping 24 points behind champions Chelsea. Considering the vast sums of money spent to rebuild the squad over the last two years, fans have every right to demand a better return on the funds spent bolstering the squad.

“We feel that we are candidates to win the title,” Mourinho said back in August. Once he realised that was unattainable, his tune changed before he turned his focus on a Europa League triumph. In that regard, Mourinho succeeded in controlling the narrative, and for good reason. His record in major cup finals speaks for itself, but there’s no denying that he – to an extent – failed to live up to expectations at Old Trafford in his debut season. Undoubtedly, there is a foundation for further success – winning breeds confidence and the most important wins deliver silverware – however, such a capitulation in the Premier League does not warrant being swept under the rug.

Indeed, United scored fewer goals (54) than any other team in the Premier League’s top seven this season, despite averaging the fourth most key passes per game (11.9). Their home form in particular left little to the imagination. Of the 54 goals scored, 26 of those were netted at Old Trafford. That was fewer than Swansea (27), relegated Hull (28) and Bournemouth (35). Fine margins played a part in the less than impressive goal return – United hit the woodwork 19 times in England’s top tier this term, the third most – but even then they missed more clear-cut goal-scoring chances (50) than any other Premier League side.

Defensively the team was as solid as one might expect of a Mourinho managed side as they conceded the second fewest goals (29) in the top-flight of English football, while there is no denying that the Portuguese boss brought out the best in the likes of Eric Bailly, Ander Herrera, Antonio Valencia and Paul Pogba. Wayward finishing was the primary factor for the sub-par Premier League performance for United, yet it doesn’t excuse negative tactics from Mourinho, which impacted their finish in the top-flight of English football.

The idea is for United to take an early advantage and then sit and hope to hit opponents on the counter-attack. It’s a staple of any Mourinho-managed side and when it works, he’s hailed as a tactical genius. Yet, when the going got tough and opponents handed the incentive to United, this was when they faltered. The likes of Swansea, Bournemouth, Hull and Burnley all came away with positive results from Old Trafford this season, be it due to resolute defending – and superb goalkeeping – or because United took the initiative yet failed to kill the game off, allowing the opposition back into matches.

It’s a flaw that Mourinho and United must work on this summer in order to improve upon their league position in the coming campaign. For now, United fans will revel in their Europa League success, but another campaign where the team labours behind their top four rivals, could see pressure begin to mount on Mourinho. He has the perfect foundation to build upon now – he must not let that go to waste

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