Diego Forlan: Manchester United need to be patient and give Jose Mourinho time to get it right
Diego Forlan writes a weekly column for The National, appearing each Friday. The former Manchester United, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid striker has been the top scorer in Europe twice and won the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup. Forlan’s column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten.
In my time at United, Chelsea were bought by Roman Abramovich and would go on to become one of the strongest teams in the world. Jose Mourinho would also take charge just before I left England. He had become a hero there, taking a “small club” and making them champions of England for the first time in 50 years.
Mourinho is loved by Chelsea and can expect a good reception when he returns with his new club – United – on Sunday, even though he is trying to defeat the club who sacked him a year ago.
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Chelsea fans would probably prefer he was not at United. He achieved so much at Chelsea, winning the league in both of his spells there. That is why they will welcome him at Stamford Bridge, even though it is a game that neither he nor his Antonio Conte can afford to lose. English fans are good like that and it helps that he is not a player, who could have a more visible impact on the game.
I have been back to former clubs and it can be tricky. In Europe you can be called a traitor, but the English fans can be generous. I never got to play back at Old Trafford because I was injured when my Villarreal team met United in the Uefa Champions League, but travelling United fans applauded me in our home leg. They also sang my name on Monday after Liverpool’s 0-0 draw against United. That sounded wonderful, hearing fans still singing about me scoring two goals at Anfield 14 years ago.
The 0-0 draw was not as exciting; goalless draws are rare in the Premier League. But I understand why Mourinho set his side up to play so cautiously.
With a game at Chelsea on Sunday, he needed to avoid defeat at Anfield. Liverpool would have gone six points clear of United, and a second defeat to a major rival following the loss against Manchester City last month would have complicated things further in his first few months in the job. He has a hard enough job as it is.
I have seen some of the criticism from United fans about their team not attacking enough against a Liverpool team that are good, but hardly at Barcelona’s level. Jurgen Klopp has improved them, achieved some great victories, against Arsenal and Chelsea, but if they were that good they would have beaten United.
United fans are used to seeing their team try to win every game, but the United of today are not the team of old that won so many trophies. They may share the same name, but they are not the same team.
Besides, even under Alex Ferguson we were defence-minded in some matches. While they continue to be rebuilt, the current team are not as good as the one I played in and the team will have to continue being cautious – like at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
United fans need to be patient, just as the club have been patient with their own managers.
If United lose a few matches then you do not hear fans calling for their manager’s head, which you might find at other clubs.
That is one reason why the United job is so attractive. No manager can come into a club which has undergone so much change, click his fingers and expect everything to fall into place. It just does not happen, especially when he is asking them to play a different way to how they were told under Louis van Gaal.
A manager only truly gets to know his players when he has worked with them every day as his boss. We all have perceptions of what a player is like from watching them in games, but when you are around them you see their real personalities. It is the same if you are a player.
New signings have arrived at clubs I have been at and been totally different to how you would expect. Knowing what individuals are really like helps a manager and Mourinho is still learning.
Remember how much time Ferguson was given. A United manager would never get that now, never be allowed to finish 13th in the league. But I still think there needs to be patience. Especially when United are in need of further strengthening. I know they bought great players in the summer, but the squad are not yet complete.
Mourinho has done OK so far. It is not his fault that expectations were so high when he arrived. It is not Paul Pogba’s fault that people thought he would be like Lionel Messi, scoring goals and winning games with the ease of a player on a computer game.
Like his manager, Pogba also needs time. He has gone from playing in a very good and stable Juventus side where there were few expectations on him because he was a young player, to playing in a team who have yet to find their best formation where he is expected to be the main man and make them shine.
United being seventh in the league has lowered expectations. Any lower and it becomes a problem, but it is best to start judging Mourinho after Christmas and 25 league games rather than eight.
And no matter what he does, he is up against other big, rich, English clubs. Chelsea are big now. There are probably six or seven teams who could win the title and there have already been four different winners already this decade.
No other major European league has that, which is why the Premier League is so exciting, even if it wasn’t on Monday.
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Published: October 20, 2016 04:00 AM