Jose Mourinho seems happier and his team are playing better too
By Joe Harker
It has not been the best of seasons for Jose Mourinho and Manchester United but it has not yet descended into the third season meltdown some were predicting. Their league position is not ideal but they are finally catching up to the rest of the top six teams and the performances are getting better too. United still need to start games in a better way as they are too often torrid for the first half but they are getting better.
When they travelled to Turin to play Juventus in the Champions League most were expecting a defeat. The Italian champions are one of the favourites for the competition, rarely lose at home and schooled United at Old Trafford. A Cristiano Ronaldo goal seemed to confirm their superiority over their opponents, but a pair of late goals from United had Mourinho ending the night with a victory. There's nothing quite like a comeback in football and snatching victory in a major Champions League game is what makes the game worth watching.
Something else about United is the change in their playing style. Mourinho is not an "attack, attack, attack" manager, instead believing that defence is the key to victory, but he is slowly starting to come around to attacking.
Having previously adopted a defensive approach at United to cover for the lack of quality at the back, now may be the time to put their best foot forward and attack. A more fluid attack where the players seemingly have more freedom is beginning to emerge at Old Trafford and fans have been calling for it for some time.
However, there are concerns that despite the win and a better mood from the manager it is still the same old Mourinho. After sustained abuse from the Juventus fans he couldn't resist cupping his hand to his ear and taunting them at the final whistle. Criticised after the game for not showing enough class in victory, the manager insists his family was insulted during the chants. He later said he "probably shouldn't have done it".
There is also the issue of the poor performances early in the game. In their last two matches, against Bournemouth and Juventus, they really should have been down by several goals in the opening stages. It's all very well and good for United to turn on the style in the second half but they have been fortunate not to be playing in a game that has been put beyond them.
Former United player Dion Dublin believes the team's "monumental" win against Juventus will not help them at the weekend, where they face current Premier League champions Manchester City. If United start the game shakily and City are clinical enough there might be no chance for yet another comeback after improving in the second half. Their style of play is improving but they have been let off the hook by the profligacy of their opponents, Dublin expects City will not be so forgiving.
This may also be another brief resurgence in the "charming Mourinho" persona before a bad result sends him back to defensive football and grumbling to the media. Mourinho is often his own worst enemy and fans will be hoping his newfound commitment to attacking football is genuine. It seems to be working.