7 players who could sink under Mourinho... and 6 who'll thrive
There is a pleasing Hollywood grandeur to the way in which both Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola have finally – after years of speculation – converged in Manchester. Arriving at the same time and in the same city, their rivalry has been reignited at clubs in almost symmetrical situations; both have depleted squads, and both have virtually unlimited transfer budgets.
But while Guardiola embarks on a summer of intense tactical reprogramming, Mourinho may find that this Manchester United group are surprisingly well prepared for his brand of swift counter-attacking football.
Mourinho is often regarding as a purely negative tactician, but his achievements at Chelsea and Real Madrid clearly reject this notion; his incisive counter-attacking style is more closely aligned with United's attacking traditions than many have assumed, which should favour the younger players in the side.
However, the tactical shift won't necessarily dictate which players flourish and which flounder. Mourinho expects the character that Louis van Gaal attempted to build, which means that many of United’s recent signings could have a bright future under the Portuguese coach.
Counterintuitively, Mata’s best performances for United this season act as further evidence that he will not be wanted by the new manager
The most obvious loser is United’s Spanish playmaker, who left Chelsea just six months into the Mourinho regime after starting 11 matches in the 2013/14 season. Mata was singled out for criticism in September 2013 for not working hard enough defensively; as Eden Hazard will attest, Mourinho will punish any attacker unwilling to follow orders and track back.
Counterintuitively, Mata’s best performances for United this season act as further evidence that he will not be wanted by the new manager; the Spaniard has been most effective when cutting infield from the right flank to become a floating playmaker, but this sort of positional drifting would infuriate Jose.
There’s little chance Mourinho will trust Young as a full-back, although on the bright side he won’t trust him as a backup striker, either. Young’s continued presence in the United first team was largely because Van Gaal had left himself with few other options, although the speed with which Young adapted to new positions suggests intelligence and discipline. This could save him, but the fact he's now 30 and among the least effective wingers at the club means it probably won’t.
The German has endured a difficult time in England. Slowed by persistent injury, Schweinsteiger has failed to adapt to the speed and intensity of English football; given that Mourinho lost his job in December thanks largely to the tepid performances of his central midfielders, he will have little time for meandering players who are past their peak.
Carrick’s low-tempo, elegant passing style is not suited to the furious, blood-and-thunder tactics set to be instigated at Old Trafford
Although his intelligence and leadership will earn him the respect of the incoming manager, Carrick’s low-tempo, elegant passing style is not suited to the furious, blood-and-thunder tactics set to be instigated at Old Trafford.
Traditionally, Mourinho has played a powerful defensive midfielder alongside a more energetic, box-to-box presser at the base of midfield, and unfortunately Carrick is somewhere in between the two. At 34, he may be better suited to a coaching role at United soon.