The 2018/19 season is finally over for Manchester United. A year with a few highs and many more lows saw the Red Devils fail to pick up any silverware, and even manage to miss out on Champions League qualification.
The appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seemed to start a renaissance for the club, but it ended up just further highlighting the many issues still at Old Trafford. Issues that were brought up by a former boss.
Ultimately, Jose Mourinho was proven right on many of the things he complained about during his time at the helm in Manchester.
A desperate need for defenders
This narrative can be traced back to before the season even started. Going into the transfer window, it seemed likely the board was going to back the manager. However, with a week to go, Fred was the only marque name brought into the first team looking to make an immediate impact. Much more was needed, but at the very minimum, United had to buy a new centre back.
Mourinho even helped with the scouting, as he wrote up a list of names who he thought could do the job. That defender never came, and the Portuguese manager was left with what he ended the previous season with.
Fast forward to today, and United are once again on the hunt for a centerback after a disastrous season defensively. They only kept two league clean sheets at home, and conceded more goals than Newcastle United, who finished in 13th. The Chuckle Brothers of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones were as error prone as ever, and Eric Bailly was never able to be relied upon, while Marcos Rojo only had the chance to play a few games.
Victor Lindelöf was the only useful central defender at the club, but he was often left exposed because of his lesser teammates.
The issues that plagued United for the past nine months would’ve been nonexistent if the board just listened to Mourinho back in August.
The faltering of the French connection
There were two players, in particular, Mourinho had a problem with, and he was ridiculed for at the time for his stance. Those two were Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial, who found it hard to crack the starting lineup on a consistent basis under Mourinho.
The fans and media lambasted the Portuguese manager for his position at the time, and he was made fun of even more when Solskjaer took over and got the two Frenchman in great form soon after taking over.
However, their true colours bled through eventually, and now United is seemingly back at square one. Pogba had a poor end to his season, which was mostly due to the interest from Real Madrid getting to his head and taking his focus away from Old Trafford. Martial has had even less success, and there are reports that Solskjaer was to sell him after being disgusted by his lack of effort in recent weeks.
Second was better than just good enough
The most infamous quote from Mourinho came during the early months of the season, when he admitted that finishing second the year prior was one of his greatest managerial accomplishments. This comment held plenty of weight considering how much Mourinho had done in the past, winning the Champions League with FC Porto and Inter Milan while picking up three Premier League titles at Chelsea. Many took it as a shot to the players at United, and felt he was being harsh. There was no way being second best was that impressive at a club the size of United.
Looking at how much the team has digressed since then, he likely had a point. The Red Devils went from beating Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium to only picking up one point in two games against already relegated Cardiff City and Huddersfield. United finished the year prior six points ahead of Liverpool, but they ended this campaign 31 behind. The clearest example of how bad things have gotten is that Ashley Young is still the first choice right back at the club.
Lessons for Solskjaer to learn from
The fact of the matter is Mourinho won’t be coming back anytime soon, nor should he be. The club have put their faith in Solskjaer for the long term, and there’s no point in changing their minds once again. However, there are plenty of lessons the Norwegian can learn from his predecessor. Solskjaer has got to stick up to the board, and demand better from them if he wants any chance of succeeding. If he is somehow convinced that the roster is good enough as is, then he’s already lost. He must be willing to admit that Mourinho got plenty of things right about the state of United. Once that happens, then Solskjaer can really start his attempted rebuild in Manchester.