New seasons normally bring about fresh optimism. As everybody starts with a clean slate there comes the widespread hope of better times to come.
But Jose Mourinho has come across as being anything but optimistic so far this summer. From the moment Manchester United landed in Los Angeles for their pre-season tour he has made it known how dissatisfied he is with a multitude of issues currently bugging him.
Firstly he was annoyed by the lack of first-teamers available from day one, as seven of his squad made it to the final weekend of the World Cup. “The pre-season is very bad. The positive thing is only for the young boys that have a fantastic opportunity to train with us.
“The broadcasters were not nice to us with the Friday match [to start the season], which complicates more things. So I’m worried because I’m not training [with first-teamers] and then I go to the Premier League without lots of players.
There has also been the board’s struggles in attempting to bring in players to fill the two holes Mourinho has cited as being of most concern going into the new campaign. “One thing is what I would like, another thing is what is going to happen. I would [like to] get two more players.”
Add in the asides about missing his daughter’s graduation ceremony, Antonio Valencia’s recurring injury issues and his inability to allow Matteo Darmian to leave due to the lack of cover at right-back – stopping just short of publicly begging Ashley Young to return early from his summer holiday – and Mourinho has cut a sullen figure for most of the last fortnight.
United’s results haven’t helped, with three draws being played out in their opening summer fixtures, and his decision not to call upon seven of his 10 available substitutes against AC Milan on Wednesday night spoke of his lack of trust in some of his younger squad members to rise to the occasion when their Premier League season begins with Leicester City’s visit to Old Trafford on August 10, just four days after the majority of his World Cup stars begin their pre-season.
While many of his gripes are little issues which many managers have to deal with, the lack of activity in the market is becoming a greater and greater problem for Mourinho and fans alike with the transfer deadline less than two weeks away.
The early additions of Diogo Dalot and Fred suggested that United were looking to wrap up most of their transfer activity quickly, but with only third-choice keeper Lee Grant coming in since then there is an increasing panic among the supporter base and it is one which is being reflected in Mourinho’s demeanour.
United’s executive vice-chairperson Ed Woodward and head of corporate finance Matthew Judge have led their transfer campaign with a measured approach which might well ensure that the club are not stung economically in the market. However, the strategy so far has shown little of the urgency which must be demonstrated in any transfer window but particularly so in this one given the reduced time scales brought about by the World Cup and the first early closure since new rules were adopted.
All the while Mourinho is getting nowhere when it comes to preparing his squad properly. United still need another centre-back and could do with a wide midfielder on the right hand side. They also desperately need a full-back ready to step in and make a difference straight away but that appears to be an eventuality Woodward and Judge are not ready to entertain.
Even had the wheeler-dealers been able to secure a deal for a World Cup star whose arrival might be delayed, such as Tottenham’s Belgian centre-half Toby Alderweireld , at least Mourinho would have known what he was working with going forward. Instead, he is none the wiser as to what his squad will look like come August 10.
And, as proven last year when Woodward couldn’t reach an agreement for Inter’s Ivan Perisic, United will end up paying the price and Mourinho won’t let his boss forget it in a hurry. “I don’t know why he didn’t come to Manchester when I wanted him,” the manager told RT of Perisic as his Croatia side made their way to the World Cup final this summer, craftily aiming a dig at his club’s refusal to meet Inter’s demands.
The bottom line this summer is that United cannot win the Premier League with their current squad, and nobody knows that more than Mourinho. Short of hauling Woodward over the coals in public the Portuguese has done everything he can to ensure that the right moves are made to get the Red Devils to where they need to be come the beginning of the season. The ball is now in the Woodward’s court, and if he does not deliver what Mourinho needs then the Portuguese will surely be spoiling for a fight.
Never one to be backward in coming forward, and with a reputation for overseeing implosions in his third season in previous roles, Mourinho is likely to be a ticking time bomb ready to blow if United don’t do what he asks of them in the market over the next two weeks.