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Mourinho deserves more credit for Manchester United’s World Cup success

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Lingard, Lukaku, Pogba, Young, and United’s other World Cup stars are a credit to their club manager’s work.

Tunisia v England: Group G - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Between surprise group stage exits and incredible set-piece goals, the 2018 World Cup has been hailed by some as the most exciting ever. After a grueling semifinals duel against Roberto Martinez’s Belgian squad, Didier Deschamps’ French team booked their way to their first World Cup final since 2006. After a hard fought 120 minutes, Gareth Southgate’s men succumbed to Croatia with a 2-1 defeat. If France manages a victory against the underdogs, Paul Pogba, a Manchester United Red Devil will be a World Cup champion. In spite of closing the 2017/2018 campaign with zero trophies, Sunday will vindicate the hard work José Mourinho’s star midfielder put forth this past season that was at times overlooked by the successes of neighbors Manchester City.

Speaking of Mourinho, the Portuguese manager has not been coy with his opinion throughout this tournament. The boss triumphantly backed Southgate’s English side to lift the trophy at the beginning of the competition, claiming that they are “really strong.” After France’s semifinal victory, the Special One praised midfielder Paul Pogba’s efforts, crediting his mature playing style as one of the factors that led to their win.

Other Premier League clubs have produced expert players who have contributed to their country’s success throughout the World Cup. When they perform well, their manager rightfully so shares the credit. Due to the discipline provided by their boss, coupled with their motivation to win, a fine result means recognition for the person who coaches them. It’s evidenced by the merit given to Pep Guardiola for his work grooming Kevin De Bruyne into a world-class midfielder and Tottenham’s Mauricio Pottechino’s successes with striker Harry Kane.

However, it appears that acknowledgement stops with Mourinho. Despite domestic titles with Chelsea and Real Madrid and Champions League trophies with Porto and Inter Milan, endorsement from the media for Mourinho during this World Cup period has been mute.

Entering the tournament, United sent 11 players to Russia, with the most representation from the English contingent. A stoppage time goal from Marcos Rojo sent Argentina into the knockout round, while Jesse Lingard opened his scoring account early in the group stages with a goal against Panama. Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini both found the back of the net with Belgium, and much praise should be given to Ashley Young and Marcus Rashford for England’s semifinal success.

United fans share similarities with their favorite player or most memorable season. However, opinions divide when discussion of Mourinho’s approval arises. The boss adopts an unorthodox approach to his work. Of course, not everyone understands or even celebrates his methods. Time and time again, United supporters embarrassingly endure post-match interviews where Mou criticizes his players’ performance, fitness and their motivation to play under him. Earlier this year, I even expressed my frustrations with Mourinho’s mismanagement of Paul Pogba, arguing that their ongoing feud would evidently cost United trophies.

Although he’s struggled to get the very best out of Pogba, Mourinho has resurged Young’s career as one of the Premier’s League’s best left backs. In November, at 32 years old, Young made his first appearance for England since 2013, and at 33 years old has made an appearance in every World Cup match this competition, setting up that lovely Harry Maguire header against Sweden.

Perhaps the most improved player under the Mourinho method has been Jesse Lingard. It took longer than usual for the 25 year-old to find himself a starter in Mou’s XI, but his presence has been felt this past year especially, and with the trust of Mourinho has delivered in key matches for the club. The Three Lions star recently spoke well of his manager:

“Mourinho has been great with me,” Lingard said. “He’s put that trust and faith in me to play me in big matches week-in, week-out. It’s only up to me to repay that faith by playing well and putting on good performances. He’s played a massive part in my development and I can only thank him for that.”

When Mourinho inherited this club from the errors that were David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, the talent that accompanied it did not rival that of his former club Chelsea or Pep’s Citizens. A few high-profile signings in the midfield (Pogba, Nemanja Matić) and the addition of a promising centre-back in Eric Bailly has nearly leveled the depth of United’s Big Six rivals. When the summer transfer window officially closes, the starting roster will hopefully be skilled enough to challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title.

Should Paul Pogba become a World Cup champion on Sunday, the conversation that will likely follow his triumph will be whether he is capable of maintaining that talent in Manchester, and if his manager will give him the freedom to boss the midfield according to the Frenchman’s standards. The media will be hesitant to recognize José Mourinho as the long-term manager capable of leading Manchester United to another domestic or European title. For the time being, however, he has played a vital role in these 11 men achieving international success and that should not be overlooked.