06 Jan United bonding
Manchester United have not been in either “heaven or hell” this season in Jose Mourinho’s eyes – though he believes his team bonded in the face of adversity during their indifferent start.
An FA Cup clash with Reading on Saturday presents an opportunity for United to win an eighth consecutive fixture, something they have not achieved since the 2009-10 season, with the club appearing to have rediscovered some of their old swagger.
That was not the case when Mourinho first arrived at Old Trafford as they lost three successive games in September, were beaten 4-0 at Chelsea and drew four games in a row at home.
Before their current 13-game unbeaten run, Mourinho’s start was compared unfavourably to his immediate predecessors David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, yet the Portuguese was confident the results would change for the better and insists such a turnaround was possible because everyone shared his belief.
“We knew that playing the way we were playing, the good results would follow sooner or later,” Mourinho said.
“So we had draw, draw, draw, draw; big distance to the top four, but we were playing well, so there was nothing to change at all. We were very patient and stable, and we were not in hell, and in this moment we are stable again and we are not in heaven; we keep working. So I think this stability is the most important factor for us.”
Throughout his career, Mourinho has been used to immediate success. He won titles at the first attempt with Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan, and was a league champion in his second year with Real Madrid and in the second term of his second stint with Chelsea.
However, while United are currently only sixth in the Premier League table, Mourinho believes he has already established a strong relationship with his players because of the trust fostered through their tricky spell.
“This is different than other places because it’s a place where it took more time to go into a winning period,” he added.
“We built that relationship based not on good results but based on bad results and this is the big difference. When you have at the beginning (of the season), a run of two or three months winning, winning, winning, it’s paradise. Everybody is friendly with everybody, everybody hugs everybody and everybody kisses everybody.
“But when you have bad results there is normally a tendency for that to be delayed and sometimes things even degenerate and there is no way back. But we were calm, we were positive, nobody was against anybody.
“I was trusting the players and the players were trusting me. The board always told me you were here for three years, keep doing your job, no bad results will change our idea of having you here for a long time.
“So everything was based on a difficult moment of bad results and looking at the other teams going up and being miles away from us. So I think this (relationship) can last a long time because it wasn’t based on good results, it was based on reality, what we saw day to day.”
Even during their lull, United’s fanbase, frustrated by Van Gaal’s approach in previous years, welcomed Mourinho’s stylistic approach and the Portuguese thinks his current team’s form is as good as anything he has presided over in his managerial career.
“I had lots of winning teams, we won in every club but we didn’t have many teams playing so well as my Man United team does,” he said.
“But my teams normally are pragmatic and they win matches normally when it is hard to be dominated. T he reality – and for me, its very important – is this kind of relation between the way we want to play and the way the fans want the team to play and I always felt that.”