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Manchester United are about to embark upon their third season of Premier League football under the leadership of Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese manager has won the Prem three times, but notoriously has never managed a club past three seasons.
So far at United, Mourinho hasn't been able to emulate his prior successes, both at home and abroad. His claiming of a Europa League title, alongside an FA and League Cup in his two-year tenure at the theatre of dreams, has just about papered over the cracks. However, with their noisy neighbours setting countless records whilst winning the league under Jose's career rival Pep Guardiola, and with historic rivals Liverpool managed to reach their first Champions League final in 11 years, those cracks are beginning to show through, and the weight of expectation placed upon Mourinho is beginning to pile up.
It's generally accepted that football fans are a fickle bunch, and United fans do not go far in disproving this assertion. They felt that second place in the league, a League Cup win, and a somewhat underwhelming run in Europe equate to a catastrophic season akin to their seventh place finish led by David Moyes and Ryan Giggs. Before the season had even come to a close, many fans had begun turning against the people they previously believed would herald in a new age of United dominance. One-time world record transfer Paul Pogba bore the brunt of this, alongside newer addition Romelu Lukaku. Both players were slated for patchy form, a lack of focus, and general poor performance, but many blamed Mourinho for his 'anti-football' tactics, boring style of play, and negative attitude. So going into this season, Mourinho must not only prove his worth to the fans, but to the club as well.
So far United haven't really splurged per say in the transfer window. Their biggest spend of the summer so far has been the £52million spent on Shaktar Donetsk's Fred, alongside acquiring defender Diogo Dalot from Porto for a modest £19 million fee, and veteran keeper Lee Grant for just over £1million from Stoke. But knowing Jose, he will push the board to spend some more so that he might "keep up" with his international and domestic rivals. This only builds the pressure on him to succeed, and with two seasons under his belt, both the fan base and the Glazers will undoubtedly feel it's time that he started to deliver.
After a 4-1 defeat to Liverpool in pre-season, Mourinho delivered some scathing comments regarding his players to the media, even commenting that Anthony Martial should have already returned to the squad after the birth of his new-born child just days before. This is the Mourinho of seasons gone by; The Mourinho that led Chelsea to a tenth place finish in 2015/16; The Mourinho that claims the media are conspiring against him; The Mourinho that alienates many of his key players; The Mourinho that doesn't see the end of the season.
However, United fans should not believe that history is destined to repeat itself, and there are many reasons to be hopeful going forward. Paul Pogba is coming off a World Cup win, and showed himself to be the player many United fans hoped he would be, both on and off the pitch. Pogba played fantastically in Didier Deschamp’s side, and took a prominent role in the dressing room, giving the team talk before the final against Croatia. Lukaku also had a great tournament for Belgium, and will likely be looking to continue his scoring form going into August.
Even Luke Shaw, who was previously cast out by Mourinho, has sung the praises of his manager, saying in an interview with ESPN: "It was a breath of fresh air when [Jose] text me. I wasn't expecting it. I was on my phone and I got the text. I spoke to him and it was really positive, really good." Shaw went on to describe how Mourinho had placed faith in the young left-back, and how Jose would often text him telling him he knows he can "be the best."
So maybe the Mourinho hoodoo is a thing of the past; United fans will surely be hoping so. And with the top 6 looking even stronger this year with the arrivals of Emery at Arsenal and Sarri at Chelsea, it's vital that Mourinho has his dressing room in order, or the unrest in his own side could be his undoing.