Although it feels much more recent, it has been 112 days since Jose Mourinho took over the reigns at Manchester United; time flies when you’re having fun.
Louis van Gaal, his infamous predecessor, was in charge for a lengthy 736 days. During that time, he made relatively little progress.
In just 15% of the time, however, Mourinho has brought Manchester United much further on, progressing in leaps and bounds and beginning to make the team his own.
One of the main criticisms of Van Gaal during his tenure was a reluctance to play attacking football, resulting in a lower amount of goals than the Old Trafford faithful are used to; he averaged just 1.29 goals per game over his spell at the Theatre of Dreams.
On the other hand, Mourinho is currently averaging 1.8 goals per game – a stunning improvement.
Part of this improvement is down to the coaching from the Portuguese international. Utilising tactics that have seen him shower in success in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain, he is already continuing in a similarly superb way of setting up his teams.
Not to be forgotten, though, are the signings that the boss made over the summer. Here, I will review the success of the aforementioned players following their summer moves to Manchester United.
Although unheard of to many, Eric Bertrand Bailly had already made a name for himself before his big-money move to Manchester United over the summer.
He was subject to a lot of praise following two excellent to performances against Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi since his move to Spain.
Several games into his Manchester United career, and there is clear evidence of those performances. Competing against quality Premier League attackers, he has continually impressed for the Reds, commanding the back line like one of much more experience.
Combining striking athleticism with intelligence, guile and awareness, he has all of the qualities of a top central defender.
On top of this, the Ivorian is just 22 years old. This, combined with his fabulous performances, have led to suggestions that the defender has the potential to be a United great.
Unlike Bailly, Mkhitaryan was a more well-known name prior to his move to Manchester.
This is mainly down to his impressive performances over the last few seasons, and before that at Shakhtar Donetsk, leading to interest from a host of clubs – including fierce rivals Liverpool and Arsenal.
Last season in particular saw the Armenian shine, acquiring 11 goals and 15 assists in last year’s Bundesliga. At 27 years of age, the attacking midfielder is undoubtedly in his prime.
Since his transfer, however, he has failed to reproduce his Dortmund form. To the surprise of many, Mourinho picked Juan Mata over Mkhitaryan in the opening few matches.
When he appeared as a substitute , he didn’t dazzle, frequently squandering possession and looking unsharp.
Despite this, it could be argued that he has suffered with injury since picking up a knock whilst on international duty. As well as this, there are unconfirmed reports of unrest in the Mkhitaryan camp as he feels he is being played out of position by Mourinho – this is unlikely, as so far he has been played on the right of the 3 behind the striker, the same position in which he excelled for Dortmund last season.
When he left Manchester United in 2012, it was clear Manchester United had let a future superstar slip through their fingers in Paul Pogba.
Excelling at Juventus upon arrival, it is said experienced internationals such as Buffon and Pirlo couldn’t help but laugh at United’s willingness to let him leave; they instantly recognised his talent.
This talent shone during his 4 seasons in Turin, resulting in a world-record move back to Manchester. Since arriving, he has not set the world alight as many had expected.
This, however, was never his mission. He has the talent to perform skills and score fantastic goals – and believe me, they will come – but for now, he has ticked many of the boxes he needs to.
Acting as an engine in the middle of the park, he creates an indispensable link between all 3 phases of the team, catalysing attacks with his phenomenal runs and spectacular vision.
Moreover, he has performed defensive duties with discipline and intelligence.
Importantly, though, he is just 23. He will perform moments of magic time after time, and he will improve his overall game. Undoubtedly, Pogba has the potential to be the first name on the team sheet for many years to come.
At 34 years old, Ibrahimovic has enjoyed a career filled with glory, accolades and praise from every angle. Differently to others, though, the Swede comes in two parts: there’s the football player, and the person.
Firstly, the footballer isn’t bad. Scoring 5 goals in 5 games in all competitions, he has proven why his reputation is so amazing. After all, he has a mesmerising total of 397 career goals.
Secondly, and arguably more important, is the person. He has a massive personality and an absolute wealth of experience, allowing those around him to learn and further their own careers. Budding young talents such as Marcus Rashford will be better players in the future due to what they learn from Ibrahimovic during his time at this club.
As a result of this, he comes with a sort of aura that is reminiscent of Eric Cantona. Raising the spirits and confidence of the entire club, there’s no denying that Zlatan is partially responsible for the return of the Manchester United fear factor. Because of this, his importance cannot be denied or diminished.
Overall, all four of Mourinho’s signings have proven shrewd buys. Some have started faster than others, but there is nobody doubting that all have potential to become extremely important first team players, some already accomplishing so. There’s a reason why the respective transfer window went down as one of United’s best. Let’s hope the season follows suit.