Jose Mourinho's brilliant man management at Manchester United
Jose Mourinho's past record with players isn't great. Iker Casillas, Kaka, even Juan Mata at Chelsea feuded with him. What's changed at Old Trafford?
Mourinho is among the top managers in the world. Be it mind games, the media, or winning football matches, he is a master of almost all traits. One characteristic he has lacked at times is man management. He didn't have the best of times with his Real Madrid and Chelsea v.2 squads. Even in title-winning sides, there was always one or two players who fell out with Mourinho. As a Manchester United manager, though, the Special One has undergone a significant change.
There has always been controversy with Mourinho. He had previously disgraced players, sidelined them, made them a victim of his wrath. At a club like United, he couldn't afford to do that. Call it age or maybe the stature of his dream job, Jose Mourinho has matured.
To become Manchester United manager is a special honour in the game. There is a mystique and a romance about it which no other club can match.
He has learned from past mistakes and converted his liability into an asset. At United, the Special One's man-management has been nothing short of phenomenal.
Jose Mourinho brought in Henrikh Mkhitaryan last summer. The stellar Armenian had an excellent season with Dortmund and looked ready to tear the Premier League apart. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
'Mkhi' had troubles adapting to the English game. It was no problem for Mourinho. He made Mkhitaryan train hard for an extensive period, dropping him from games due to his ongoing work. The fans did not receive this well. Mkhitaryan did, however.
Mourinho had a plan, as he always does. He rewarded 'Heno' with chances in the Europa League. The gifted Armenian grabbed the opportunities with both hands. The former Dortmund man has since been involved in many goals.
The French wunderkind arrived at Manchester United in 2015 and enjoyed a great debut season, scoring 17 goals for Louis van Gaal. He seemed to have the world at his feet.
Under Mourinho, his form didn't continue into the next season. The Portuguese had issues with his work rate and dropped him from the starting XI. Rumours linked him away from the club but Martial, as well as Mourinho, had his priorities sorted.
'Toto' worked hard, showed intent and Mourinho rewarded him with starts. Martial is now among the Premier League's most efficient attackers.
The Belgian Zidane! Fellaini has divided opinion his entire career. Once, the Old Trafford faithful even booed him. Still, Mourinho always trusted Fellaini. He has publicly defended him, saying he feels "weaker" without him, that the Belgian is a very important player in his squad. While fans and pundits debate just why that is, Fellaini is out there on the pitch, giving his heart and soul for the faith Mourinho has shown. Fellaini is among the most important squad players at Manchester United now.
The left back remains a work in progress but, as Mourinho continues to come back to him, there must be progress. First, serious injury curtailed his development. Second, there were issues with his mentality and work rate. When those failed to be sorted, Mourinho took the extreme measure to criticise Shaw publicly, always with a word for his potential.
The criticism irked Shaw. Rather than put in a transfer request, as the little-used Morgan Schneiderlin did, he focused on fighting for his place. Again, injury intervened. Mourinho knows it is difficult to fully recover from a double leg break, however. He has been more patient than he used.
The 22-year-old recently returned to action as a League Cup substitute against Burton Albion, again set on making the left back position his. He has the boss' faith. Now all he needs is a bit of luck.
Mourinho used all his footballing mind and experience to solve this problem. Rooney was a legend past his prime. Selling him was difficult considering his wages far outstripped his value. Simply dropping him invited a second coming of the feud with Iker Casillas.
Instead, Mourinho demonstrated respect while slowly easing Wazza out of the squad. A timely mid-season injury allowed him to bring other players into the number ten role while Zlatan Ibrahimovic led the line.
Off-field, Rooney was still an asset. His experience helped Rashford, Martial, and others improve. Mourinho welcomed his leadership. Then, he was allowed to go back to Everton in a separate deal from Romelu Lukaku so as not to make him seem a makeweight. The transition was so fluent that his absence is barely felt and roles within the team are more defined.
One significant change in Mourinho's approach has been his balanced criticism towards players in the media. He has been honest regarding his expectations but careful to emphasise the player's value to the squad. Unlike with Eden Hazard, Casillas, and Sergio Ramos, he has attempted to broker peace rather than go to war.
Due to that approach, players like Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, and Ander Herrera have improved significantly. Most importantly, players look happy and willing to work under Jose Mourinho.
It can never be all positives with Mourinho. He sidelined Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay and Bastian Schweinsteiger last season. He wanted to sell the first two but couldn't find proper deals. When Schweinsteiger returned to the first team, Mourinho admitted his mistake, even describing Schweini's treatment as inhumane. He even regretted what he did to the Deutscher Fußballmeister and cited his influence.
Overall, Mourinho has shown a drastic change in his behaviour. He's worked hard with players he wants in his squad while demonstrating respect for those he does not. The latest player to receive the Mourinho treatment is Victor Lindelof. Only time will tell, if the centre half comes good. Still, it's down to him rather than the manager.