Paul Parker: Jose Mourinho must follow Fergie and Pep and change style
Manchester United must shake up their approach to matches under manager Jose Mourinho, writes Paul Parker....
After the demoralising defeat to Sevilla, Jose Mourinho said: ‘Everything has to change.’
He’s right... but not in the way he imagines.
The Portuguese went on to clarify his response by talking of 'investing in players'. But he can’t keep doing that. Somewhere along the line he has to look at the squad he has already and how he's putting it together.
This is what Sir Alex Ferguson did. Every time he got a new coach, he got different ideas. He took some of them onboard, and pushed others away. But, crucially, they were allowed an input into how to develop the team.
His success wasn’t based on running his side the same way year after year. Some might say he had to change, because his coaches left and got other jobs, so he had to switch things around. Yes, it’s true they went elsewhere – the likes of Steve McClaren and Carlos Queiroz – but he knew that in certain ways they might struggle. He also looked at it as a positive, because when they left it was because United were being successful, so he went and got someone else and they carried on winning silverware, because the new man helped him evolve and the club to move on.
Switch of style
Anyone who watched United from when assistant coach Brian Kidd was there, through to when Mike Phelan was No 2, will tell you about all the different teams in that era and how they changed the way they played.
For example, when I played, we had Mark Hughes up front initially and Brian McClair, then Eric Cantona came along and there was a slight shift to a 4-4-1-1 formation. Then Andy Cole came in, with Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – who combined to win the Champions League in 1999 – and there were different ways of playing with all of them.
Look at Pep Guardiola – he has evolved as well. Even at Barcelona his personnel changed, so the style switched too. One minute he had Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but didn’t like him. He also had Samuel Eto’o, which worked for a while, before moving him on. He used Lionel Messi as a false nine. For United, Fergie wanted the best for that team, so he also moved players on when they became less effective or weren't helping the team improve. Even some of the biggest stars of the club.
United these days still have very good players – you saw a bit of it against Liverpool, when the shackles are off, they can play. If you go for it, there’s more chance of getting something out of it. Even if you lose, you have the feel-good factor of knowing you gave it your best shot at winning. You’ve attacked the other team, put in a good performance, just not got the result.
When they played Crystal Palace they were in a lull, went behind, then had to fight to get something out of it. But that’s great, they showed what they could do. They even went two goals up against Liverpool but allowed them to dominate the second half. They travelled to Sevilla, who are not having a good season in Spain, and were content with a 0-0 draw. So they are capable but are putting themselves under pressure by the way they are approaching matches.
In the second leg last night, they had to go out and try to win the game. You cannot sit back on a 0-0 and hope to get away with it – no matter who you are playing in the Champions League – you have to allow your own team to play, to make an impact. Bringing back Marouane Fellaini, after a month out and just 20 minutes of game time against Liverpool after his last appearance as a sub against Tottenham, is indicative of the approach. Then plan was to sit back.
Mourinho tried it with Real Madrid and the public and players didn’t take to it. It wasn’t their way. It’s the same at United. Many people were calling me a Judas before he got the job and after he was appointed because of some of the things I said and wrote. But I was concerned about the way he sets up his teams.
Winning like Wimbledon
Look at Wimbledon many years ago – with the likes of Vinnie Jones in their side. They were just happy to be winning, as there hadn’t really been any success before. There was no style, no fashion, they were content to win, no matter how.
But at United there is something there already, something laid down by previous teams, a style, a way to play. I realised that when I played against them, and even more when I played for them. And even now, I recognise it more. It is not just about winning one game of football.
The new-age supporters might be just willing to accept United simply winning. They might not have seen the great sides over the years – when it started with Sir Alex Ferguson’s team, how they won.
The older fans are saying that there is still a template there – Liverpool try to stick to the way they play, even if they haven’t won many trophies in the process. But it’s about believing in something.
Back to Guardiola, he believes in what he’s doing and they’ve stuck with him – and look what they have achieved this season. They didn’t sack him, he has obviously turned around and told them what he needs to do the job, the time he needs to do it, and he is improving the team. Not only that, he is improving the individual players.
Mourinho needs to look at the talent he has already got and ask: ‘How can I get the best out of them?’ It’s not just about saying 'do this, do that'. Give them some freedom. And with the defenders, he can’t put the fear of God in them if they make a mistake. Yes, tell them, make sure they don’t do it again, but don’t make them fearful.
They need balance too. If you have one of the best left-backs in the country, give him a game. Make him feel that he’s got every chance of going on to become the best left back by playing regularly.
Stop playing blame game
Mourinho should have admitted he got it wrong on his approach after the Sevilla match. You can’t jump from one club to another and then talk about success elsewhere when you lose. It should be ‘we lost and I take responsibility as the manager'. It sounds like he’s absolving himself of responsibility for the defeat.
David Moyes is supposedly one of United’s poorest ever managers and he got to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, losing to holders Bayern Munich, which is no disgrace.
So, as Mourinho says himself, everything must change, and that must start with his own approach to his team and tactics.