Manchester United were Sir Alex Ferguson. Everything they did ran through their legendary manager and when he retired, the Red Devils had no direction. David Moyes failed and Louis van Gaal was only marginally better, but the club's failures did not lie just at the feet of their managers. They were a club in disarray, with no discernible plan or way forward. That is no longer the case because now Manchester United are led by Jose Mourinho.
The Special One hasn't managed a competitive match for the Red Devils yet, but it's already clear that what he says goes at Old Trafford.
Mourinho has disposed of nine Red Devils, sending them to the Under-21s and telling them that they can either get a loan or sale to leave the club, but that they do not have a place in the team this season. That includes Bastian Schweinsteiger, who was supposed to help transform the midfield when he was signed just one year ago.
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With Schweinsteiger's résumé, and his quality when fit, he was considered by many to be a shoo-in for the Red Devils team. At the very least, trying to get rid of his wages and dealing with the fallout of pushing a player of his quality out would be problematic on the best of days, but that's not a concern for Mourinho. He's never been one for capitulation.
Following Schweinsteiger out the door are Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Tim Fosu-Mensah, Paddy McNair, Tyler Blackett, Andreas Pereira, Adnan Januzaj, Will Keane and James Wilson, otherwise known as just about every youngster that Moyes and van Gaal brough through the team over the last three years.
It's no secret that Mourinho rarely trusts young players to play a big role in the team and he's not outright telling them all to get out -- Pereira was advised to go on loan to gain experience for a year -- but he's not exactly welcoming them in either. As far as young academy products go, it will be Marcus Rashford and, well, Marcus Rashford.
So where does that leave Manchester United?
For starters, it leaves them thin in the midfield, especially with a manager who likes at least two ball-winners in the center of the pitch. But one Paul Pogba can fix all of that and, as if there weren't enough indications that he will be making the move back to Old Tarfford, Schweinsteriger's exile makes it all the more likely.
It's also clear that Mourinho doesn't think much of the club he took over. Whether it's the young players that have come through, a high profile signing like Schweinsteiger, or the way he immediately went out and signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Eric Bailly and probably Pogba to make for the spine of a team that needed it, Mourinho is essentially saying that Manchester United were a mess. And he's not wrong.
There will be some who complain Mourinho is marginalizing a once-proud academy or that he's going to rub the squad the wrong way with how he's getting rid of players. There's reason to believe those claims too, with Mourinho historically failing to use young players and his contentious departures from Real Madrid and Chelsea. But at least the team has direction now.
With Moyes and van Gaal, there was finger pointing between the managers and board room. Ed Woodward was a constant target and for good reason. He wanted nothing but stars and struck out more often than not. Moyes and van Gaal's top targets rarely landed at Old Trafford. They made do with what they had and that didn't go so well. They struggled for results and also to entertain.
Mourinho's teams aren't always entertaining, but they almost always have direction and they usually win. Mourinho's presence has already paid off in the transfer market, with three top targets making their way to Old Trafford without issue. That's already a huge step forward. Now he's molding the team with clear direction and vision, getting rid of anyone and everyone he sees as surplus, big star or young kid.
If there was any doubt that this was a brand new Manchester United, that's already out the window. This is Mourinho's Red Devils.
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