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Jose Mourinho is a polarizing figure. No matter how long his tenure at Manchester United lasts, he’s likely never going to be fully embraced by the entire fan base.
Ever since his name began getting linked with the Manchester United job there was a part of the United fan base that was immediately all on board. But there was also another part of the fan base that didn’t want Mourinho anywhere near Old Trafford. The most popular reason for that was due to Mourinho’s record of promoting and developing academy players, or rather his lack of a record. Manchester United after all is a club that prides itself on promoting from within its ranks.
Mourinho of course tried to address this issue early on, bringing a complete list of the 49 players that he’s given first team debuts to over his managerial career to an early press conference. Of course that list isn’t a good argument, as there’s a difference between handing out a debut when you need to fill a hole and actually giving the player a chance to prove himself.
But to say Mourinho does not play young players isn’t a completely fair statement. In Manchester United’s first match he started 20 year old Anthony Martial and 21 year old Luke Shaw. He seems to be pretty fond of 23 year old Jesse Lingard and whether he likes it or not he’s going to be forced to play 18 year old Marcus Rashford. As for 23 year old Paul Pogba? I don’t think he’ll need to worry about his playing time.
But it’s not just at Manchester United where Mourinho has actually played younger players. Eden Hazard was 21 when he signed with Chelsea and Mourinho threw him right in to the starting XI and last season Mourinho preferred 20 year old Kurt Zouma on defense instead of John Terry.
All those young players that were given a chance to play for Mourinho have one thing in common. They can help Mourinho win games immediately.
And therein lies the true problem Manchester United fans have with Jose Mourinho. He manages his team for the here and now and only for the here and now.
The reason Mourinho manages in the here and now is simple. As history tells us Jose Mourinho only manages a team long enough to think about the here and now. He never sticks around long enough to have to worry about the future.
This time at Manchester United Mourinho swears it will be different, that he’ll be sticking around for more than three years. But so far his dealings in the transfer market don’t reflect that. They reflect a manager that is only worrying about right now.
While Mourinho has signed Paul Pogba and Eric Bailly, who are 23 and 22 years old, they, along with 27 year old Henrikh Mkhitaryan and 34 year old Zlatan Ibrahimovic, fill holes that are immediate needs. While that’s great for this year, Mourinho has done nothing to improve the depth of the team.
If Mourinho is still at Old Trafford in three years he’s going to run into problems with the depth of the team. He’s also going to be finding out that when you’re at the same club you can’t just spend £200 million in the transfer market every summer.
This is why Mourinho can’t stop signing players now that he’s completed his first team. He needs to sign young players that can grow into the team. There are still areas of the squad, central midfield to be exact, that need to be bolstered and the two players that Mourinho should be going after are 17 year old Reece Oxford of West Ham and 21 year old Will Hughes from Derby County.
These are the kinds of signings that Sir Alex Ferguson would have made. Neither one of them would be expected to contribute to the first team this season and that’s OK. Mourinho doesn’t like to work with large squads but if he wants to adapt and make his style work for United these are the kinds of moves he should make to show the fans that he’s committed to the future.
Oxford and Hughes wouldn’t be counted on to make an impact this season. But they could train with the first team and play matches in the reserves. If they made 15-18 appearances between the two of them, mostly off the bench, it would do wonders for their development, that way in three years when United’s veterans are getting too old, they already have young players ready to step in as well as continuity in the squad.
Manchester United fans aren’t skeptical about Jose Mourinho because he doesn’t play youth players. They’re skeptical of him because he doesn’t think towards the future. Going out and signing Reece Oxford and Will Hughes will show the fans that Mourinho is committed to the long term success of the club, rather than just trying to win in the next two years and being on his way.