Despite a second-place finish last season, the pressure is on for Jose Mourinho to deliver the goods at Manchester United, after millions spent and amid an arms race at the top of the league.

By 90Min
July 25, 2018

No sooner have the blue, white and red embers on France's Russian World Cup party began to fizzle out, the domestic season hurtles towards us once again at almost breakneck velocity.

After the summer's international festival of football, the coming domestic seasons across Europe - not least in the Premier League - promises to be one of the most intriguing in years, with faces new and old set to grace the English top-flight in particular.

As Manchester City still basks in the glory of an emphatic return to the summit of English football last term, the target on the Citizens back has expanded to dimensions perhaps yet to be seen on Premier League playing fields. 

Having mounted a near-perfect European odyssey in the Champions League last season, Liverpool has its sights trained firmly on Pep Guardiola's men, while Chelsea swings into a new campaign with yet another new steward at the helm of the good ship Stamford Bridge, this time incoming ex-Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri.

Both north London clubs also will be eyeing another assault on the league crown, with the Gunners especially keen to make a statement and Unai Emery bent on guiding Arsenal into friendlier waters. 

The Spaniard, however, has the unenviable task of leading the former league champions from the choppy seas of Arsene Wenger's floundering years as the captain that had blindly led his beleaguered crew into the path of an iceberg.

However as Emery, Guardiola, Sarri, Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp rubs their hands with expectancy, one man begins this season under perhaps the biggest pressure of them all.

Jose Mourinho enters his third season at Manchester United having seen the shift of power firmly switch in the favor of the blue half of the city. Despite finishing in a runner-up spot last term, the Red Devils have now gone without a league title since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013.

It is a statistic that is beginning to grate on the Stretford End faithful, having been spoiled with a era of dominance both home and abroad that has not, nor will ever be replicated again.

Not only that, but perhaps the greatest of all exponents of the attacking brand of play - certainly in English football's previous years - have now gone by the wayside after Louis van Gaal and David Moyes were set up as the scapegoat mocked up as a Red Devil.

Mourinho is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in managerial circles globally, but to say the Portuguese is fitting like hand to glove to United would be false.

Despite cries of 'Attack, Attack, Attack!' and with chants urging to play football 'The Busby Way' emanating from the stands, both wishes have fallen on deaf ears.

Of course, it would be naive to suggest the 55-year-old was ever the most cavalier of tacticians in the dugout, as the man who has always emphasized defense over attack found that his system worked during his spells in Iberia, Italy and even at Chelsea.

In 2018, his methods are falling short. Having seen Alexis Sanchez almost single-handedly carry Arsenal for close to three season in north London, Mourinho's move to bring in the Chilean from Premier League rivals - and indeed Wenger himself - now seems nothing more than a token gesture meant to weaken an opponent.

So is now the time to change for Mourinho? Even the most stubborn of creatures of habit in Wenger himself was forced to change, but even that was not enough to prevent his outdated methods from falling behind the pack.

Perhaps the biggest indictment of Mourinho has been Paul Pogba's performances for World Cup champions France this summer.

Pogba has become perhaps the biggest enigma in football, second only to the ultimate primadonna of the global game in Neymar. Alas for United, the former Juventus midfielder who returned 'home' to Manchester two years ago has proved to be impossible headache for his manager at club level.

For Didier Deschamps and Les Bleus however, the 25-year-old arguably usurped the unrelenting N'Golo Kante as the star of the French midfield in Russia en route to winning France's first World Cup in 20 years.

Pogba's showings were not in essence game changing - with just a single goal against Croatia in the final to his name statistically, without an assist all tournament - but what he gave was down to a more direct position on the park; there was no coming and going from front to back that Mourinho wants from his man.

Playing a more withdrawn role suited Pogba down to the ground. That is not to say to there could not be success in how the unflappable Frenchman plays for his club, but Pogba needs to play one way. Not as a holder who marauds forwards, or a No. 10 who is culpable on the ball frequently. Mourinho needs to change that as a matter of critical importance.

This season could realistically see six sides battling for league honors come next April, however there is much to be played out before that avenue is passed. United are very much in the title picture once more, even after a summer of little spending in an attacking department, but perhaps the bigger picture is of Mourinho himself. 

He has been typically coy over their chances, but with one tally in the club's first two preseason friendlies still fresh in the mind, goals are still a thorny subject. Surely, now is the time for change for Mourinho.

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