Embraces show Mourinho's bond with players
Manchester United’s last two matches, against Crystal Palace and Young Boys, were not the serene wins staff and supporters might have hoped for, but they did reveal evidence of a strong bond between Jose Mourinho and his players.
United were left frustrated by Palace, who escaped Old Trafford with a goalless draw, but proceedings ended with Jose Mourinho trudging all the way across the Old Trafford turf to embrace the hobbling Victor Lindelof, who had spent the last minutes of the match struggling to move due to a muscle injury.
Against Young Boys, the Reds did find a way through thanks to Marouane Fellaini’s injury-time strike, after a tough second period. The big Belgian’s first instinct? To seek out his manager on the touchline and to show solidarity.
Club legend Paddy Crerand recently told me: "There are no communities more tight-knit than football teams”. Of course, that can swing both ways: when things are going well, joy abounds, the laughs come easily and everyone rubs along happily. When things are trying, stress and pressure builds and tensions can fray.
Football teams have only themselves to rely on, in front of a watching world that can be harsh and emotional with its judgments.
As in any workplace, arguments occur, while some employees will get on with each other more smoothly than they will do with others. There are different varieties of relationships, from natural friendships to those that are simply based on decent respect and admiration for the values and work ethic held by others.
Obviously, the manager and the players are unlikely to be satisfied with our current position in the Premier League, or the inconsistency of the results so far this campaign. But as Fellaini’s late goal proved, and as Lindelof’s willingness to fight against the pain in his body underlined, this is a team that is still committed; still determined.
You could see it in the thunderous tackles Marcus Rashford put in after coming on as substitute against Palace on Saturday; in several challenges Phil Jones delivered during the Young Boys win. Jones had not started a game for over two months. It would have been easier for him to come into the team and play in a more conservative manner, or even harbouring some frustration. Instead, he thrust himself into duel after duel, and carried the ball forward enterprisingly on several occasions.
Inevitably, the lack of goals at Old Trafford in this campaign will concern and annoy the manager and his staff, but all teams can go through such periods – and former Reds like Andy Cole and Diego Forlan would no doubt sympathise with Romelu Lukaku’s current goalscoring travails.
United have endured tough periods in each of Mourinho’s seasons, but what marks his reign out is the way the Reds have consistently been able to haul ourselves forward after disappointing results.
While the search for the kind of attacking fluidity Mourinho and his forwards crave continues, togetherness and resolve remain. The significant number of late goals already scored during 2018/19 add weight to that argument, as do the images of the manager with Lindelof and Fellaini.
The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.
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