By 90Min
December 27, 2017

For all the criticism coming their way, Jose Mourinho's Manchester United have made their best start to a Premier League season since Sir Alex Ferguson's final year in charge.

13 wins and 43 points from their first 20 games would have been enough in each of the last four campaigns to put the 20-time English champions right in the midst of a title race. They'd have earned enough points to sit top of the tree in 2015/16; even while that season saw so many of the big guns fail to deliver that Leicester City managed to steal in and take advantage.

Few, though, could have seen United's neighbours and Mourinho's long-term rival Pep Guardiola win an unprecedented 18 of their first 19 games. They've wiped the floor with all of their direct rivals - some on their own grounds, United included - and are playing some of the finest football the Premier League has ever seen.

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Manchester City can go 15 points clear of United with a win over Newcastle on Wednesday night. And regardless of the result at St. James' Park, or Vincent Kompany's attempts to keep City's feet on the ground, rest assured that this race is over for another year.

These aren't excuses for Jose Mourinho, but merely facts. The truth in the matter is that had City not quite been at the levels they've reached, things would not look quite as bad at Old Trafford as they do at the moment. It's important to have perspective, and United are making progress. They're in the best position they've been in since Ferguson stepped down.

Much of that is down to the former Chelsea boss. But one of the men he's looked up to most over the course of his career, Ferguson himself, could really teach him a thing or two.

It's not being pleasant with the press, because Ferguson, for a lot of the time, was not. He also wasn't averse to blaming a referee or two, nor to trying to deflect the blame from his team with some questionable comments. But what Ferguson did so well was get the best out of what he had to work with, to change with the times and learn.

You only need to take a look at the United squad in his final campaign to realise just how true that was. That wasn't a team of superstars, but a squad made up of a chunk of average players, a few experienced heads, and a Robin van Persie. Ferguson had fire in his belly in what he knew to be his final year, and he managed to transfer that fire to every member of his squad. 

They won the Premier League by 11 points.

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Mourinho doesn't do that. Instead, it's a constant default to playing the victim, or to blame outside factors. Maybe it's his version of taking pressure off his players when they fail to deliver, but in a slump in form - when these examples are not quite so regular - these habits really start to grate. They mount up, and ultimately have a negative effect.

The 54-year-old is in danger of alienating a large section of the fanbase who believed he was the man to finally take United back to former heights. As one of the biggest clubs in the world, and as a club that has spent £286m on players in 18 months (we're disregarding the money spent before, too), Mourinho simply cannot use the "money" excuse as a reason for his failings.

Guardiola may have £50m man Kyle Walker playing out of his skin, but it's important to remember that Fabian Delph - that central midfielder who played 220 minutes of league football in 2016/17 - has been coached into working effectively as a left back. Benjamin Mendy, that other £50m signing, has been injured since matchweek six.

Mourinho has unquestionably been given a squad of some deadwood to work with, but he's had three transfer windows to put it right, with a fourth starting next week. He's also claimed his side can win the title at the start of each of his seasons at Old Trafford.

He wants more money to compete, but the question remains over whether he's the right man to spend it if he continues to throw his toys out of the pram.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a Manchester United fan who would've expected their side to storm to the Premier League title this year, with a large section thinking a title challenge would suffice expectations-wise. But while progress has been noticeable, Mourinho's behaviour is starting to turn a fanbase of believers into doubters.

He could certainly learn a thing or two from Sir Alex. And he could certainly learn a thing or two from that man across town, too.

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