José Mourinho isn’t subtle. When he inherits a team, you can guess what he’s going for in the transfer market. A big striker, a centre half, an imposing midfielder. Drogba, Zlatan, Lukaku, Essien, Carvalho, Bailly. The list goes on.
He’s following this blueprint at Old Trafford. Lukaku has long been dubbed the next Drogba. Now it looks like Matic is about to sign. Which raises the question, is he turning United into Chelsea?
Lukaku and Drogba have been compared for years. But Big Rom is a very different player from the Drog. The latter was all about playing with his back to goal and holding it up. That’s not Lukaku’s strength. He wants the ball in front of him, running at goal. Zlatan is more in the Drogba mould – albeit a much more skilful and better all-round player.
As Mourinho’s got older he’s obsessed over the function of his wide men. His first Chelsea incarnation featured Robben and Duff – two very United-style flying wingers.
His second stint saw him fall out with Eden Hazard over the Belgian’s lack of tracking back. He also used one of the world’s best strikers in Samuel Eto’o wide at Inter – the number 9 often tracking so far back he was basically playing right back. It’s no surprise that Willian was Jose’s man at Chelsea – playing much less so under Conte last season.
Currently, he likes what he sees in Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard – both hardworking. Less so, Anthony Martial and, to an extent, Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
The way he’s going is in the mould of his second stint at Chelsea. If he can pull off the signing of Bale it’ll be more an old-school Fergie signing however.
At Chelsea, it was all about the big boys in the middle of the park. First time round, José signed Michael Essien to boss it in front of the back four and re-signed Matic during his second stint to do the same. The U-turn on Matic at Chelsea was pure Mourinho. As is his desire to bring the same player to Old Trafford.
United have thrived on all action centre-mids – think Robbo, think Keano and, to a lesser extent, Ince. They were brought in for their ability to command games. Not just as a shield. If Matic joins (or even Dier for that matter), it seems very much the pragmatist in Mourinho. And very Chelsea.
It’s not all about the shield for José. He’s also wants a big lad to make a difference going forward. He inherited Lampard at Chelsea but also bought Michael Ballack to bring power and goals.
Pogba fits into this mould but you could argue his flair and ability to stretch teams with his pace is much more in the United tradition.
José always builds from the back. When he first went to Chelsea, he signed Ricardo Carvalho straight away to partner John Terry. Two solid defenders. His first signing last summer for United was Eric Bailly. His first signing this summer was Victor Lindelof to partner Bailly.
It’s a given that top teams need a quality partnership at centre-half. The best United teams have always had that. That’s nothing José specific, but it’s at full-back where we can see Mourinho at work.
His most recent Chelsea title-winning team featured a big, strong, powerful right back in Ivanovic.
Antonio Valencia was coveted by Mourinho when at Madrid and it’s no surprise the Ecuadorian is a huge part of his team at United. Under the Portuguese’s guidance, gone are the mistakes that plagued his early turn at full-back, replaced by a true competitor at the back and going forward. This is very Mourinho.
Luke Shaw doesn’t really fit into this mould, which is why he’s struggled.
There are similarities between what he did at Chelsea and what he’s trying to build at United. But there’s one key difference. He knows the history at United. He knows what the fans expect. He didn’t have this at Chelsea. His job was to build their history.
At United he’s trying to build the team in the image the fans crave.
Fergie is always remembered for flying wingers and creative forwards. But in reality, his teams were big, strong and full of hard running. They were made up of players who were not only better and more skilful than their opponents. They ran harder, tackled harder and fought for everything. Bruce, Hughes, Cantona, Keane, Vidic, Rooney, Ronaldo, Beckham, Scholes. The list goes on.
They were winners and did whatever it took to lift trophies. This is what Jose’s trying to build at United.