Mourinho looked powerless in Manchester United’s 2-1 derby loss to City last Saturday. Weakness is not something associated with him. It was anticipated that in such a high-profile match he would flex his tactical muscles by executing a game plan to avoid defeat. But his side were unable to do even that against their title rivals. This could prove psychologically damaging in 2016-17. The scoreline flattered United and subsequently some serious questions have been asked about what Mourinho was doing with his team selection and formation, particularly in the first half.
It’s worth remembering that Mourinho was appointed at Old Trafford this summer as damaged goods. He had, after all, just overseen one of the worst title defences in recent history at Chelsea. While his sacking in December 2015 took nothing away from his previous feats — winning titles in four countries, for example — it did feed in some doubts about his future. Now, having landed arguably the biggest job in the land, any sign of a fault is intensely scrutinised no matter how small.
Of course, the City result was just one loss and the first under Mourinho after wins in their opening three fixtures. Although it has since been followed by a second defeat at Feyenoord, writing off Mourinho as finished would be preposterous. Their chance to get back on track in the league comes at Watford on Sunday, off the back of a much-changed United side’s Europa League participation on Thursday. Will Mourinho reward Marcus Rashford for his impact as a substitute against City? Will Paul Pogba run the midfield the way he’s capable of? Find out at Vicarage Road.