Men in Red (Part 2) Babasola Opaneye December 15, 2016 Zero - Zero When it was announced that Jose Mourinho would be taking over as Manchester United manager, the only two men in the red half of Manchester who could have harboured any serious misgivings with legitimate cause were Louis Van Gaal, the man he replaced, and Ryan Giggs, the man who wanted his job. Whilst it is true that many had their reservations about him- his confrontational, controversial and sometimes negative management style together with a win at all cost mentality that sometimes got to a point where the cost became too much to bear by his employers, one thing could not be taken away from him: He was a winner, and United needed a winner. Having seen Manchester City successfully pull off the coup of landing the highly sought after Pep Guardiola, United needed a big statement of intent to quieten their noisy neighbours. In addition, there was a need to quickly arrest the slide towards mid table mediocrity which had been the defining theme of the post-Fergie era. The good old days had returned. It was also a great move from Mourinho’s perspective, especially as someone who loves a challenge. He had finally gotten the job he had desired for so long, yet unable to lay his hands on; an opportunity to fill the boots of Sir Alex. This had initially seemed out of reach when Sir Alex made David Moyes the ‘chosen’ one, and Mourinho had to be content with being the ‘happy’ one. Problems at United and Chelsea however opened a window of opportunity that came at just the right time. It was also a great chance to show everyone that he was still special, and that last season was just a little blip, facilitated by some ‘rats’ he wasn’t given the opportunity to exterminate. After a bright start, beginning with the transfer window where he was able to land all his targets, and also extending to the community shield and first three league matches, things have gone slightly off colour, with majority of the performances and results not matching the expectations at the beginning of the season. The greatest cause of concern however, has been the fact that he has increasingly cut a frustrated figure, and seems to have lost that aura of invincibility he once carried. He has picked fights unnecessarily with his players, rival managers, referees and the press; fans of his previous club, Chelsea, have also been on the receiving end of some his jibes, and a lot of them have also responded in kind. Suddenly the hair looks a bit greyer, and the smiles have been replaced by frowns, creating the impression that he is fast falling out of love with the beautiful game. It couldn’t have helped that Pep Guardiola has become the new object of fascination of English media as he once was; that for the first time Chelsea appear to have truly emerged from his shadow, encapsulated by the four nil drubbing at the bridge, and look to be better off after their divorce, with ‘Don’ Conte currently doing the best special one impression since 2004, with his 3-4-3 revolution spreading like wildfire the way Mourinho’s 4-3-3 did at his first coming. In addition, his impressive home record, characteristic of his spells at Chelsea Madrid and Inter Milan appears to have deserted him, turning Old Trafford from the theatre of dreams to the theatre of draws. The reality though is that the jury is still out, and a conclusive assessment cannot be made at the moment, even though many appear to have short memories. It is likely he would be given enough time to turn things around, and on closer examination they look to be heading in the right direction, even though it has been more of crawling along than flying. He could still end up with three trophies and a place in the top four this season, and the season is far from being a disaster yet. He has also been keen to remind anyone who would care to listen that he remains a very good manager, a serial champion and that with time he would definitely end up as one of the great United managers. Indeed, he has earned the right to demand a little patience. It remains to be seen how long this journey would last; whether at Manchester he is home or in transit. However, one thing is clear. Jose Mourinho needs to rediscover his Midas touch and become the ‘Special one’ again. For United’s sake, and more importantly, for his.