It was another efficient, dull, defensive display from Manchester United against Sevilla.
Jose Mourinho tends to save the entertainment for his press conferences and Manchester United fans are starting to realise that he is not about to change his ways anytime soon. The ‘Manchester United way’ went out the door with Sir Alex Ferguson.
While United fans were screaming at the TV or venting their anger on social media, the Portuguese sat back in his comfy chair in Seville, rarely moving.
Why would he? His team were playing exactly to his instructions.
Mourinho and parking the bus go hand-in-hand and any fan watching on Wednesday night, while frustrated with the display, will have not have been surprised by his methods.
His playing philosophy has won him 25 trophies to date. Jurgen Klopp or Mauricio Pochettino would love to have half that. Yet, most honest Manchester United fans would swap Mourinho for either.
It does not help that Pep Guardiola is ruling the north west with his excellent Manchester City side who Mourinho and co. look a million miles away from matching anything near the quality their rivals produce despite spending hundreds of millions.
Liverpool too play an attacking, free-flowing football that is a joy to behold with their shaky defence leaking a goal or two for added entertainment.
The former Real Madrid boss left Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford on the bench on Wednesday night in a clear indication that they will not be beaten, and if they do manage to nick a goal then all well and good. If not, the assumption is they will take care of business at home. The voracious Alexis Sanchez must be loving life at Manchester United.
Using the example of another English side in Europe, Liverpool faced a tricky test in Porto last week. It probably never crossed Klopp’s mind to sit back, see the game out and take them back to Anfield with it all to play for. They went about their business and all but won the tie, easing the pressure on the next leg and allowing Klopp to rest key players should he choose to.
Spurs went to the daunting home of Juventus and put in a performance which was a credit to the Premier League, leaving with two away goals.
Manchester United supporters will have to get used to the anti-football style of Mourinho and with the Portuguese penning a new deal at Old Trafford it looks as if he is here to stay for the foreseeable future, unless disaster strikes.
His saving grace last season was winning the Europa League final and entering the Champions League. No United fan or player will remember the final in Stockholm as they do the famous nights in Barcelona or Moscow. Despite celebrating the win, the real prize was a route into the Champions League.
It has almost been glossed over that Manchester United finished sixth last season and should they get beaten by Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday it will open the door for Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham to replace them in second place in the league, throwing into doubt their ability to finish in the top four this season also. They could, in fact, face a battle with Arsenal not to end up in sixth once more.
It could be argued Mourinho is fixing years of mistakes in the years since Ferguson had the good sense to call it a day. However, he bought Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who he failed to get the best out of. He also signed Paul Pogba, who he is seemingly struggling to find a place for. He praises Luke Shaw and then drops him while he is still playing with two wingers, both signed by Ferguson, in the full-back positions.
The best player at Manchester United still to this day is David de Gea, who the Scot signed in 2011. He once again saved Mourinho’s blushes on Wednesday, pulling off a world class save at the stroke of half-time which helped him earn his 19th clean sheet of the season.
In truth Manchester United are holding the Spanish international back and the Reds fans would dread to think where they would be without him.
Simply put, Mourinho and Manchester United are not a good fit. Yes, the ex-Chelsea boss may go and win more trophies with Manchester United and could very well win the Premier League eventually with the club. However, it won’t be pretty and the sometimes quiet Old Trafford will become altogether silent. Success is winning trophies, but fans pay their hard-earned money to be entertained.
It will be another Mourinho masterclass against Chelsea on Sunday and he would take a 0-0 right now if you gave it to him.
In the meantime, it may have to be accepted that Mourinho is rebuilding and the stats suggest he is progressing in the job.
However, his long-term future at the club will face serious questioning should United lose to Sevilla at home and suddenly their once solid placing in the top four will come under serious pressure.
Winning the FA Cup might ward off some critics as the trophies won last year did.
However, there is a certain style of play expected at Manchester United – an attacking one – which Mourinho is not implementing, and he never will.
While Inter Milan suited the Portuguese, Real Madrid soon got tired of his antics and style. United too will see the error of their ways eventually but what damage will have been done in the meantime?
Manchester United fans have been known to sing: ‘Jose’s playing the way that United should’. He most certainly is not at the moment.
Yes, Mourinho will deliver success, as he has always done, however there will come a time where style needs to be prioritised over success, or at least employ a manager who can deliver both.
Damien McEvoy, Pundit Arena