The Raised Flag just received special insider information about Manchester United. Manager Jose Mourinho sacked the entire coaching staff on Wednesday morning, including assistant manager Rui Faria. Preceding the Europa League away game against Anderlecht, Jose found two twelve-year-old footballers at a park near the team hotel. After admiring their dribbling abilities, he invited them to United’s training session. Many players reportedly appeared puzzled. However, Mourinho assured the squad that these kids had the secret to becoming the perfect team.
On Tuesday, April 11, the Red Devils arrived at their training ground in Belgium. Faria took charge of the practice and ran the lads through normal drills. Jose Mourinho, however, appeared to be absent. After about an hour, the manager arrived, accompanied by two young boys.
“These boys, they are something special,” stated Jose upon their arrival. “Trust me, I know special when I see it.”
He prompted the two to continue playing as they had been when he found them. One immediately began dribbling the ball about the pitch, performing a number of right-footed stepovers. He passed the ball to his friend, who was standing just past the penalty spot. The forward player chipped the ball into the center of the crossbar. Afterward, he celebrated with a strong dab. It was then that Jose announced that these two would take over practice for the day.
“These two boys possess phenomenal skill,” the manager said. “I want to scrap our current plan, and play like them. We have the talent, but we need to get their mentality.” The rest of the coaching staff frowned, but carried as ball-boys without complaint.
The Training Session
“We have been watching United for some time now,” stated Tristan Dervaux, the dribbler. “The only players who plays like we do now are Pogba and Ibrahimovic. We must get the rest of the squad up to speed.”
Tristan took the players aside and began practicing. While the defenders gathered in groups of three, the midfielders would have to dribble directly into the opposition. The goal, Tristan said, was to look as skilled as possible before losing possession. Passing the ball resulted in failure.
“I like Tristan, he and I share a lot of the same ideas,” said midfielder Paul Pogba. “I have been doing this drill for years, and I hope my teammates can get the same mindset.”
One player who began to excel in this drill was youngster Marcus Rashford. “He is getting there, but it still looks like he wants to keep possession. He has the run into the defense down, though,” Tristan stated.
After a break to rant about their FIFA ratings, the players went back to work with the second boy, Aron D’Haene. “Ibrahimovic is my favorite striker now. He used to be okay, but since coming to United, he is fantastic,” said Aron. “However, I think my favorite finisher on the team is Pogba.”
Aron’s drill involved forwards standing in one spot to receive a ball. If the ball made it to the forward, the striker had to either hit the crossbar spectacularly or get a lazy goal. The players could not move forward. Any shots deemed too accurate had to be stopped by the goalkeeper.
In this drill, it was Anthony Martial who was the quick learner. “It was nice to not put effort into forward runs,” said the Frenchman. “I think this will really change my game.”
Anderlecht 1-1 Man United: Post-Match
Following the success of the training session, Jose sacked the previous coaching staff. Tristan and Aron helped warm up the Red Devils for their Europa League quarterfinal as Mourinho practiced leaving to go to the dressing room early. “Everything has to go exactly like we practiced. Otherwise, a draw will be difficult to achieve,” Mourinho said before the match.
After the match, Mourinho appeared happy, seeing out yet another stalemate. “We played well. Tristan and Aron had a big impact on our team, and it showed.”
While Tristan was happy with the midfield performance, he took issue with winger Jesse Lingard. “Jesse really let us down. He tried to always play a ball in, which is not what we practice. He did have a fantastic strike against the woodwork, though,” said the newly promoted youngster. “Rashford was fantastic though and played much better than Lingard. He only passed a few times in the box, just like we practiced!”
Aron, however, was not as full of praise. “Ibrahimovic was enlightened again, sure,” he said glumly. “Zlatan never did more than a few lazy shots. But Mkhitaryan was atrocious. He always ran with the ball. And that goal? Sure it was lazy like we want, but he was so far forward! Embarrassing.”
Aron was seen after the game consoling Matteo Darmian, whose poor marking allowed the late goal. “Aron was so kind to me, I was being harsh on myself,” Darmian said as he sniffled. “It was really Romero’s fault that he didn’t keep such a header out. He shouldn’t start at the reverse fixture.”
“I am glad with this change that I have made,” Mourinho said. “Hopefully our players continue to become more like their young coaches.”