The rant is still ingrained in the minds of United supporters and will be particularly relevant this weekend when United and Sevilla meet again in the Europa League semi-finals.
“The fans are entitled to their opinions and reactions,” Mourinho began after seeing his side lose 2-1 at Old Trafford, putting an end to their European hopes for the season. “But there is something that I used to call the legacy of football. I don’t know if, I’m trying to translate from my Portuguese, which is almost perfect, to my English, which is far from perfect, the football heritage. ”
He then listed United’s achievements in the Champions League since reaching the final in 2011 under Sir Alex Ferguson. Mourinho noted that United had reached the quarter-final of the competition only once during this time, in 2014.
He added: “So in seven years with four different managers, once not qualified for Europe, twice in the group stage and the best was the quarterfinals, that’s the legacy of football. And if you want to go to the Premier League, the last win was 12-13 and in the four seasons in a row United have finished seventh, fourth, fifth and sixth. So in the past four years the best was fourth.
“It’s the legacy of football. “
So what does Ole Gunnar Solskjaer know about football’s legacy?
Well, for starters, his memory is apparently a bit longer than Mourinho’s. The Portuguese’s comments were outrageous for several reasons, including how he ignored United’s incredible European achievements under Ferguson, particularly between 1999 and 2011, reaching four finals.
Unlike Mourinho, Solskjaer does not hesitate to refer to the Ferguson era. Quite the contrary, he accepts it and speaks openly about the desire to bring those days back to Old Trafford. ‘United DNA’ is a term that is somewhat opposed to some, but it reflects the project Solskjaer is trying to build, bringing the club back to its roots under his former mentor Ferguson.
Mourinho was trying to make his own history at United, that’s right. But after the “legacy” rant, his days were numbered. The supporters became completely alienated and his approach looked old-fashioned and outdated.
Maybe Solskjaer had in mind the squad Mourinho picked in that second leg against Sevilla when he picked his side to face Copenhagen on Monday. Because there were only two survivors: Eric Bailly and Marcus Rashford.
The rest of this 2018 team were: David de Gea, Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young, Nemanja Matic, Marouane Fellaini, Jesse Lingard, Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku.
Compare Solskjaer’s side to Mourinho’s in the first leg – a goalless draw in Sevilla – and the difference is even more striking.
Not a single United player started this 0-0 and Copenhagen quarter-final earlier this week. Okay, Matic, De Gea and Victor Lindelof are still in Solskjaer’s plans, as is Scott McTominay who started in 2018 against Sevilla, but Rashford, Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba were all on the bench. Solskjaer’s squad included this trio, youngsters Brandon Williams and Mason Greenwood, as well as three of his own signings.
This perfectly reflects what Solskjaer has done at Old Trafford in the 20 months since he inherited Mourinho’s job. He moved older players (Valencia, Young), he pushed out those who were underperforming (Lingard) and he was ruthless in selling others that Mourinho considered to be integral (Lukaku, Sanchez, Fellaini).
He put pace and natural talent at the forefront of his revolution, in keeping with United’s philosophy under Ferguson, while relying more heavily on the club’s academy than Mourinho ever did.
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In short, Solskjaer has placed more emphasis on “heritage,” but in a way that prioritizes the future. He may not beat Sevilla on Sunday night and even if he does, he will only be the Europa League – a competition Mourinho always wants to remind us that he won.
But he knows what really matters at Old Trafford and over the next season or two, not just the next 90 minutes, he can really expose Mourinho’s shortcomings at Manchester United.