Manchester United were warned about the baggage that came with their appointment of Jose Mourinho, but few within the corridors of power at Old Trafford could have expected upheaval this early into the 53-year-old’s reign.
In early September, Mourinho cut a relaxed, reinvigorated figure. Word from the Theatre of Dreams after four wins from four matches was that the Portuguese boss was happier than ever having finally landed his dream job.
Fast forward barely a fortnight and the picture looks less rosy. Three defeats on the trot, the most recent of which came in an impotent defeat at Vicarage Road, has seen the daggers come out for the self-proclaimed Special One. It’s amazing what effect a couple of defeats can have.
It was the first time in 14 years that one of Mourinho’s teams had lost three games in a row and the 53-year-old criticised Luke Shaw in the aftermath of the defeat against Watford for his positioning in the build-up to the Hornets’ second goal.
Mourinho’s criticism of Shaw
The first Man City goal and this second goal against Watford — you can find an incredible similarity, which is [Aleksandar] Kolarov has the ball in a difficult situation in the corner and my players, instead of going up to press they decide to give space. Here for the second goal, [Nordin] Amrabat receives the ball and our left-back is 25 metres from him instead of five metres. But even at 25 metres, you have to jump and go and press, but no, we wait.This is a tactical but also a mental attitude. It’s something that doesn’t become perfect in a couple of weeks.
Shaw – quite evidently – was not solely to blame for the defeat against the Hornets but he was partly culpable in the build-up to Watford’s second. Mourinho, exasperated that his side had conceded a similar goal to Kelechi Iheanacho’s from the week before, pinpointed Shaw for criticism.
After spending £150million in the summer, Mourinho knew the knives would be sharpened at the first signs of weakness but more worrying for the United boss will be the leaks from the camp that his methods are ‘nasty‘.
Shaw, too, is said to be ‘disappointed’ in Mourinho’s decision to go public with his criticism and many United fans have criticised the manager for singling out the youngster – especially considering he’s on the road back from his injury torment.
Regardless of the nature of its delivery, Mourinho’s criticism was far from scathing. His comments have been described as an ‘attack’ in some quarters, which is nonsense. Instead, this was Mourinho’s acknowledgement that the side’s adaptation from the Louis van Gaal era will take time.
Of more concern to United fans should be the frailty of the current squad. It’s reductive to keep harping on about the Sir Alex Ferguson era but it’s difficult to imagine one of the Scot’s sides not winning at Vicarage Road after getting back on level terms during the second half.
Just seven members of Ferguson’s 2013 squad remain but any semblance of the spirit, the do-or-die attitude that defined his 27 years, appears to have all but gone in just three years.
Mourinho was appointed to change that and he should be afforded the time to do so. Joe Cole, Eden Hazard and Ricardo Carvahlo have all benefited from public dressing downs from Mourinho in the past and they’ve shown there’s only one way of dealing with the Special One’s criticisms. Iker Casillas, David Luiz and Romelu Lukaku show there’s only one winner when you take on Mourinho.
For Shaw, still just 21, the options are clear. If his future is to be at Old Trafford, then there is only one choice.