On Monday, Manchester City released a statement announcing that Pep Guardiola has signed with them for the beginning of the 2016/17 season on a three-year contract. ‘The worst kept secret in football’ was now official.
Guardiola is without doubt the most sought after manager in recent memory and the announcement that he will be joining City has not only put the ‘noisy neighbours’ now firmly on the map in terms of world football, it could in fact be the signing that changes English football as we know it.
Since the departure of Alex Ferguson from Manchester United in 2013, there hasn’t been a dominant force in English football. City and Chelsea have shared domestic titles, Arsenal have, well, continued to be Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and Everton haven’t reached heights they might have expected, while Manchester United have seen a seismic collapse hit Old Trafford.
You may think a couple of years without a title isn’t that bad if you are a United fan, having seen them lift numerous trophies in the last 20 years, but not only have they not won trophies, their whole ethos has since been abolished.
The ‘attack, attack, attack’ chants from the terraces in recent years has been greeted by fast, attacking, exciting football, now the chant is a mere force of habit. It’s a struggle to stay ‘awake, awake, awake’ inside what once was the pinnacle of British football.
Those of us who have watched teams under the guidance of Louis Van Gaal in previous managerial roles knew it wasn’t going to be breath-taking, but it has been downright poisonous at times in his short tenure. I can’t ever remember watching a United team before with such incapability in front of goal, lack of UMPH in the middle of the park and urgency all round.
Sure, they’ve tightened up a defence that needed it, they’ve conceded less goals than anyone else in the Premier League, but at what price? One that has cost them another league title and potentially a Champions League place.
A Manchester United team being 10 points of Leicester City in the race for a league title, is simply not acceptable, in any generation. That might sound harsh on Leicester who have even nothing but a joy to watch this season, but in terms of the global entity United are, with the money they’ve spent and the resources at their disposal in terms of sponsorship deals etc., it’s simply nowhere near good enough.
Now, since Mondays appointment of Guardiola to their city neighbours, United aren’t in danger of missing out on the league this season (that ship has sailed), they now face the thought of falling even further behind their Manchester counterparts, for good.
The Guardiola appointment is the biggest transfer coup in the Premier League’s history, and the fact he chose the blue half over the red half shows the state the club are in. What the fans will have you believe is that there is one man who can stop the rut and lead them back to the glory, his name is Jose Mourinho.
An undoubtedly brilliant and astute manager, his tactical nuance is second to none, but is he really what they need? In terms of longevity, absolutely not. He ‘usually’ guarantees silverware, and he’s proven this everywhere he’s gone. For a quick fix, yes he may be the standout candidate but for such a re-building job that’s needed at United, he can’t be the answer.
Mourinho is charismatic and pragmatic, clinical and ruthless, but is he any different to Van Gaal? In terms of tactics and style of play, he’s no more cautious than the Dutchman sitting in the helm now.
His boring football, no different than we have seen under Van Gaal drove him out of Madrid, along with his attitude which made him fall out with several players, is eventually what ended his reign in the Spanish capital. And if the replacement for Van Gaal, it is what will drive him out of Old Trafford.
His latest stint with Chelsea has shown that he may well not know how to cope with deteriorating squads. When the pressure got too much, he buckled, and the Chelsea players sensed this. Hence why they stopped performing. His abrasive attitude caused fall out amongst some of the Chelsea squad, and hindered their performances on the pitch, if the going gets tough he doesn’t want to know.
Do you really think in the back of his mind he didn’t foresee the Manchester United job becoming available? A job he has longed for his whole career? I don’t think so.
For Mourinho, this is a club that has always been his main objective to manage. For United, a manager that at this time seems to fit the bill.
In the long run, however, after the wars with Pep on the touchline have ceased, when the nastiness and deceitfulness with players and staff alike all come to a head, and the club are in no better shape than before he went in, United fans may be left wondering, was it all worth it?