In a limp display that drew comparisons to the dark days of David Moyes and the more dreary days of Louis Van Gaal, Manchester United were eliminated from the Champions League at home to Sevilla.
Quite frankly, the performance was disgraceful. Quite what the approach Mourinho wanted is anyone’s guess. For 75 minutes, his team laboured around the pitch, playing safety first football with little intention of breaking sweat and going for Sevilla’s jugular.
The longer the game remained at 0-0, the more dangerous it was becoming for United, and their turgid play came back to bite a fatal chunk from their backside late in the game.
Two goals from substitute Wissam Ben Yedder in a little over five minutes put the tie out of reach for United, who only managed to grab a consolation from Romelu Lukaku in the dying moments.
The result was not what fans predicted, nor what they expected. Manchester United should not be losing a Champions League tie with Sevilla. Let’s set aside money and the financial chasm between the sides, because that is quite frankly a tired argument.
Jose Mourinho needs to take some of the blame from last night The eleven men he fielded hardly set the world alight, and the less said about the hapless Paul Pogba, the better, but the tactics and strategy was baffling.
At their attacking best, United have a collection of players who are able to put several goals past Sevilla. This is a Spanish side that have conceded 48 goals in the league this season and currently possess a negative goal difference. They set outside the Champions League places in La Liga are a shadow of the great sides that won multiple Europa League titles across the past eight years.
An attack featuring Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford, Alexis Sanchez and Jesse Lingard should possess enough speed, guile and quality to ensure their side’s safe passage through to the final eight last night. But they weren’t allowed to.
This is where Jose Mourinho comes in. A lot has been said of the manager’s style and aesthetics this season – or even during his time spent in England – but at the heart of the Portuguese’s philosophy is what exactly to do with the ball and possession.
Put simply, Jose Mourinho is a reactive manager rather than a proactive one. He prefers to adapt to the conditions of the game and changes things if necessary, whereas coaches such as Pep Guardiola (yes, that man we cannot help but compare to Jose) and Jupp Heynckes approach matches with an open mindset and field an XI to take control of their own fate.
There is an infamous passage from a book by a former confidant of Mourinho that explains his approach in great detail. The less of the ball a team has, the less chance they have of making a mistake. If you do not have possession, you cannot make a fatal error. If you have the ball, the onus is on you to make something happen and decide the fate of the game.
When you do have the ball, you quite simply have to inflict damage in as short a means possible.
This is all well and good and has been shown to be incredibly effective up to and including this season: one only has to watch the game against Arsenal at the Emirates, or more recently last weekend against Liverpool, for textbook examples of such an approach.
Last night, Jose tried to practice what he often preaches and he came unstuck. Such is the relative unattractive nature of such an approach, criticism is inevitable when it backfires.
Had United opened up and took the game to Sevilla and lost in an epic battle, perhaps the media and fans would be more sympathetic. To lose after limply wondering around Old Trafford for 80 mins will not endear the crowd to their manager, no matter what his reputation on their knowing that their is likely no one more qualified out there at the minute to lead.
It needs to improve Mourinho, and quick.