In the wake of Man United’s recent slump in form, it’s no surprise that reports have emerged about Jose Mourinho looking to bolster his attacking options further in January with the signing of out of favor Real Madrid star Isco.
The Spanish 24-year old has only made 2 appearances from the bench for the Madrid giants this season and is struggling to make a case to start for Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid and it is understandable for him to be seeking new opportunities elsewhere to get his career back on track ahead of the World Cup in Russia.
Isco, signed by Carlo Ancelotti, in fact the Spanish attacking midfielder was the Italian’s first signing for Real Madrid from Malaga after an impressive 2012-13 season, scoring 9 goals in 36 appearances. He carried his impressive form into his new side in his first season with Los Blancos, scoring 8 and assisting 6 in 29 appearances in La Liga (11 goals in 53 games overall), playing a key role in their long-awaited and historic tenth Champions League title. But that remains his best individual season for the Spanish side, as his influence has diminished since, to the extent that in 2015/16, he only started in 21 games in the league, scoring 3 and creating 7 goals for Zidane’s Champions League winning team spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
Mourinho, on the other hand, has spent over £140m on improving the spine of his new team but the three consecutive defeats that Manchester United suffered in the hands of Man City, Feynoord and Watford in the past week has left him with more questions than he faced at the start of the season about the attacking prowess of his side to tackle four different competitions including the Europa League.
Manchester United have a luxury of players now who could play on the flanks in Mkhitaryan, Lingard, Memphis, Young, Mata and the same could be said about the number 9 position as Ibrahimovic, Rashford and Martial are all vying to become Mourinho’s lone forward in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 for the foreseeable future. But in Jose’s 4-2-3-1, in the number 10 role, so far, only Rooney has managed to feature, although whether or not he deserves to start every game as the team’s chief play-maker is a topic for another day.
Historically, Jose Mourinho has never preferred a creative playmaker in the Spanish mold. His most successful teams have all played devastating counter-attack with pace and power, more often than not without a traditional number 10 behind the forward, rather than a subtler and more aesthetic version of football that the Barcelona teams in the 2010s that he had to overcome. This, in a way, applies to all the Manchester United teams in the past, under Sir Alex Ferguson – where their flamboyant football from the flanks and a cut-throat style of football have seen them become one of the most successful teams in the last two decades.
Looking at the statistics of Isco and his prospective teammates, it’s possible to see why the Real Madrid midfielder could be a success in the Premier League, for he is undoubtedly blessed with flair and skill, approaching his peak years and under the right manager and in the right system, the Spaniard can propel himself to the next level and help those around him to do the same. But those last two variables concerning the current climate at United are precisely why the 24-year old can suffer like many footballers of his ilk have done in the past at Manchester United.
At £25m, there’s not many creative midfielders more talented than himself come about in the market, but given the recent signings Manchester United have made and the direction they are heading towards under Mourinho, it seems unlikely that Isco can make a telling impact on this Manchester United outfit in the medium term.