Jose Mourinho's Biggest Hits in His 1st Season at Manchester United

Paul Ansorge@@utdrantcastFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2017

We look at Mourinho's best moments in charge of United.
We look at Mourinho's best moments in charge of United.Dave Thompson/Associated Press

As we have already discussed, Jose Mourinho has made his fair share of mistakes at Manchester United this season.

With the help of some football writers and United fans, we covered the misses, but there have been hits too, from obvious examples like silverware to more subtle factors. In the interests of balance, we gave the hits the same treatment as the misses and asked for comment from United supporters and those who cover the club.

Let's take a look at what they said about Mourinho's best moments so far.

This is something that will come up time and again throughout this article, as people mention it while making broader points. It was the most frequently mentioned factor by respondents.

Mourinho has made Wayne Rooney's transition from superstar central figure to peripheral squad member relatively painless, at least from the outside. During the first few games of the season, the club captain was part of the first team, but after he was dropped in late September, that was pretty much it until injuries bit late in the campaign.

Previous manager Louis van Gaal had bafflingly decided Rooney had to play in every game in spite of the once-great United man having fallen a long way from his peak. Between Mourinho's astute signings—more about which later—and the player's performances, it was clear he was surplus to requirements, and Mourinho reacted as such.

It is also worth pointing out this is an important part of the Rooney-Mourinho story. The player has not kicked up a fuss, not gone public with—or even leaked—any stories of dissatisfaction. He earned the club's scoring record. And should he move on in the summer, he will likely do so without controversy.

Iwan Lehnert, co-host of the Red Voices podcast, agreed with the above sentiment about United becoming hard to beat under their manager: "It's a stretch to say that United have rediscovered their swagger under Mourinho, but recent league defeats in north London aside, United have been a very difficult side to beat since the 4-0 hammering at Chelsea in October.

"Yes, there have been too many draws, but for a team that saw its mental strength called into question constantly under Louis van Gaal last season, seeing United show this level of resolve has been most welcome under Mourinho."

After that loss at Chelsea, the season could have come off the rails. Instead, a long unbeaten stretch in the Premier League emerged. OK, it took United from sixth to, well, sixth, but nonetheless there were moments in the campaign when it seemed like Mourinho had them back on track.

Ultimately, those "too many draws" cost United dearly, but if they can add some more attacking impetus to what has been decent defensive solidity, Mourinho could be on to a winner.

These tweets cover a lot of ground. Rooney gets mentioned again, as do the signings, but two aspects in particular caught the attention. The first was the P.R. side of things "made it very evident that this is his dream job" and "connecting with fans." This has generally worked well for the manager, though patience will run thin if he does not improve matters on the pitch. In general, fans respond better to Mourinho when he is positive than when he complains.

The Marcus Rashford story is interesting. Mourinho's arrival and Zlatan Ibrahimovic's signing raised understandable questions about Rashford's future, but Mourinho has protected and supported Rashford, playing him on the wing when there was not a role through the middle and moving him to the centre in the wake of Ibrahimovic's injury.

And it has been pretty "unconditional" support too, with little in the way of public criticism and no threat of being dropped during his dry spell. As a consequence, Rashford has been around to score important goals later in the campaign.

The cap with a suit point is well made, but the tactical fluidity matter is worthy of focussing on. Mourinho has used a variety of different systems this season, though that has not worked all that well. With the exception of Chelsea at home, when they played well in Mourinho's man-mark-heavy bespoke formation, United have been at their best when playing an aggressive 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. It has been interesting to see Mourinho experimenting, though more success would obviously have been nice.

Again, some of the same themes emerge, but all three of these tweets refer to one of the clear success stories of the season: Ander Herrera. The Basque midfielder has been a smash hit with the Old Trafford faithful. He has proved open to the adaptations Mourinho has made to his game, happy to play in a more defensively minded role and certainly up to the task. This has been a clear success story.

The whole Bastian Schweinsteiger affair was a bit of a shambles, but at least it ended with an apology

Each of United's summer 2016 signings has had a positive impact this season, and Mourinho deserves a good deal of credit for that. If this summer matches the last for sensible (if expensive) use of resources, United fans can expect next season to be a good deal better than the one just gone.

It is cool.

The "better brand of football" argument certainly held a bit of weight earlier in the season, when United were playing pretty gung-ho stuff, but the performances away against the rest of the top six take the edge off that. However, it should be noted there have been plenty of games this season wherein Mourinho's Red Devils took the game to their opponents.

Ed Barker, co-host of the United Rant Cast podcast, said: "Mourinho's first season at United has been far from perfect, but there is at least a runway forward. The semblance of a vision is emerging. That's more than can be said for [David] Moyes or Van Gaal. The runway is short, though; Mourinho's goal must be to move United from being a good cup team to genuine league challengers. For that, he will have to take more risks. So will the club."

Those risks will hopefully include more of that "better brand of football."

Plenty of United fans remain unconditionally behind the manager:

And we could not finish one of these without including some of the jokes. They're normally the best responses:

To cap it all off, though, this was a neat summary:

The Europa League is not won yet, but if it is, Mourinho's first-season hits will outweigh his misses. United fans will be hoping next season's balance is more obviously weighted in favour of the former.

     

Quotations obtained firsthand.