Jose Mourinho must wake up each morning with the same kind of feeling he had during his latter days at Chelsea. Right now, it’s not working; the shine’s worn off. At Chelsea he at least had a freshly-pocketed Premier League winner’s medal which had the shine very much still on.
It feels as though Mourinho has skipped right past the league titles which propped up his regimes at Real Madrid and Stamford Bridge and gone straight to the meltdowns that finished him off.
It’s hard to know what’s going to work for Manchester United in the games upcoming – including Wednesday’s EFL Cup derby at home against Manchester City – or what’s going to turn it all around.
It’s not as though they have been awaiting the return from injury of a clutch of first-team players. What has been available to Mourinho, he’s largely played. In the case of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Bastian Schweinsteiger, he’s neglected even to do that such are the choices at his disposal.
You might think that once January rolls around he will have the opportunity to bring in a couple of players to freshen things up. That is not how Sir Alex Ferguson conducted business at Old Trafford and it is a sign of disorganisation and desperation when a team lives window to window.
He has made his statements – banishing Schweinsteiger and binning Wayne Rooney from the starting lineup – but has as yet been unable to jolt his team into anything like the effectiveness drawn from their first few performances. He’s trying the same things but they are not coming off.
After an imperious, near-record breaking start, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has found goals harder to come by on a consistent basis. Mourinho cannot seem to decide what he likes in midfield aside from excluding the personnel he clearly doesn’t like from the first-team squad altogether. He’s now got problems in the backline with Eric Bailly ruled out for two months.
It would be difficult to ascertain Mourinho’s preferred XI currently given the poverty in the performances of most of his players. We know what he would like to do; line them up in a 4-2-3-1 and for everyone to play to their potential. That’s what happened earlier in the season but, gradually, it’s all begun to fade.
The 1-2 derby defeat to City rocked through Old Trafford like an earthquake and United have yet to truly recover their balance. There have been decent wins eked out here and there but nothing like the level expected of a title-chasing team or even a team looking to hit the top four.
There is a something of a similarity between the struggles currently being endured by Mourinho and those down the road at Eastlands featuring one Pep Guardiola though they wouldn’t like to admit it. Neither is a crisis but it’s how a crisis starts.
Like Mourinho, Pep’s team got off to a flyer and at one stage it wouldn’t have looked out of place if the bookmakers began to pay out on a City title win. They hared off on a 10-game winning streak but their momentum was abruptly halted by Celtic in the Champions League. Since then they have been in a tailspin.
Pep, like Mourinho, is doing nothing patently different and that must perplex him. He’s putting out the same players, broadly in the same shape, but it’s just not happening.