John Brewin: Examining Mourinho’s disdain for the Van Gaal generation

Our star football writer looks into the reasons why United’s boss has continually shown the door to the signings of his predecessor…


As sales pitches go, little went to plan for late substitute Daley Blind at Bournemouth on Wednesday.

Granted his first ten minutes in Manchester United’s first team for over three months, he was presented with a scoring chance by a gossamer flick from Anthony Martial.

Instead of testing Asmir Begovic, he instead swung his left foot at fresh air and was forced to chase after the spinning ball with a chorus of jeers burning his ears, launching thousands of memes and mocking tweets in the process.

Blind, a graduate of Ajax, a player Johan Cruyff described “as the only Dutch player left with a decent, proper pass that can create a goal” is headed for the Old Trafford exit this summer, cast aside as an unwanted remnant from a previous, failed regime.

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He never ended up sharing anything like the same success his father, Danny, enjoyed with Louis van Gaal in the mid-1990s. And since Van Gaal left United two years ago, a player formerly all but an ever-present has retreated to the fringes, and has not started a Premier League game since August. Blind’s exit this summer is a fait accompli.

Jose Mourinho and Van Gaal used to be close, a relationship of mentor and receptive pupil.

“When a friend of mine coaches the Netherlands, I’m for them,” Mourinho said ahead of the 2014 World Cup of the coach he had assisted at Barcelona. That all changed once Mourinho, out of work after being sacked by Chelsea, crowbarred himself into the frame to be Van Gaal’s replacement at Manchester United.

Van Gaal arrived in Wembley’s press room after winning the 2016 FA Cup to find himself fielding questions about his imminent sacking, after a leak had revealed Mourinho would be appointed as United’s next manager. The pair have not spoken since.

Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final with Tottenham comes two years after a late Martial goal beat Everton at the same stage of the competition, and while there are survivors from that day, an expected clear-out will leave United with very few survivors from Van Gaal’s purchases.

If the transfer talk of the past few weeks is true, then perhaps only Ander Herrera and Marcos Rojo might remain of the 13 recruits the Dutchman brought into the club.

Mourinho has been almost as ruthless with the players Van Gaal brought to Manchester during a tumultuous two-season tenure as he was with his former friend.

From the moment Bastian Schweinsteiger was banished to the reserves before the 2016-17 season after failure to prove his fitness, United’s new manager has done nothing to shield his disdain for the £250m worth of talent his predecessor brought to Old Trafford.

In the January transfer window of that first Mourinho season, Morgan Schneiderlin was shipped to Everton, Memphis Depay sold to Lyon, while Schweinsteiger was shipped to Chicago Fire in March, after having made a brief return to the first team.

This summer, the next clear-out of the Van Gaal generation will continue.

As well as Blind’s departure, Matteo Darmian has been linked with Juventus, as has Martial, a player whose best United football came by far under the previous manager.

Mourinho appears to have little idea what to do with Martial, a problem compounded further by the arrival of Alexis Sanchez, a vanity purchase whose overriding impact has been to curb the involvement of the two starlets who shone brightest under the Dutchman.

Martial and Marcus Rashford have had to be patient, a virtue that does not come easily to young, hungry players.

When Van Gaal was appointed by United, there was a tacit expectation that such a brash, divisive figure would only have a short shelf life. The time would eventually come to remove him.

What was hoped was United subsequently being able to benefit in the fashion Barcelona and Bayern Munich had post-Van Gaal. Youngsters like Xavi and Thomas Muller, future Champions League winners, were left as readymade superstars for the next man to find use for.

And yet Mourinho has appeared resistant to such a bequest at United, and repeatedly shows annoyance at questions about how much game time Rashford and Martial might receive.

Meanwhile, his relationship with Luke Shaw has been the battleground on which his most explicit dissatisfaction with United players has been aired.

Mourinho’s propensity to fall out with players is by no means confined to Van Gaal recruits, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan already shown the door and the saga of broken relations with Paul Pogba raging on since the beginning of 2018.

But that influx of players has borne the brunt of a manager going to great lengths to explain why he does not have the tools or, to use his phrasing, “heritage” to compete for the Premier League title.

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