Mourinho's perseverance with Ibrahimovic and Pogba pays off
Perseverance with Ibrahimovic and Pogba is paying off for Mourinho
For weeks, Jose Mourinho had resembled a man who was howling at the moon.
Everything was, true to form, against him as well as his Manchester United side that had been dominant at home, accomplished on their travels and yet had seen little tangible reward.
They were, in his eyes, the unluckiest team in the English Premier League.
His declarations of injustice were dangerously following the route which dominated the final days of his Chelsea downfall, which ended in his sacking just 12 months ago.
But United appear to have belatedly turned the corner after a smash-and-grab win over Crystal Palace yesterday morning (Singapore time), securing back-to-back league successes.
As things stand, the Special One may afford his trademark wry grin a long-awaited outing over the festive period after successive victories vindicated those lengthy protestations.
So, too, has his perseverance with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba.
The pair were Mourinho's marquee captures in a summer where they took up the bulk of the club's £145 million ($261.6m) transfer outlay but were weighed down by their valuations.
Ibrahimovic had spent months staggering with the weight of his own ego and, no doubt, the pressure of his eye-watering salary to the point that, at times, he was in something of a daze.
Adapting to the culture of a new and different league would be a shock for any player but the Swede has been forced to become a footballing mortal again after enjoying a life as the ultimate iconoclast at Paris Saint-Germain for the previous four seasons.
He was allowed to do whatever he wanted in the French capital and anything he deemed unsatisfactory was changed immediately. That freedom has been denied to him at both United and within the EPL.
Neither stand on ceremony for those who have yet to prove their worth to it.
START FROM SCRATCH
Ibrahimovic has had to start from scratch.
Like Old Trafford, his career had reverted to a Year Zero stage.
He had the option of either embracing it or sulking his way through the remaining season-and-a-half.
Some 14 goals from 24 appearances later - eight of them coming in as many games of late - the veteran striker has markedly begun to rediscover his level again.
Bursting through the Palace defence to pounce in the 88th minute showcased Ibrahimovic in full flow; playing with confidence and ruthlessness.
Pogba had returned the favour to the 35-year-old and was another who previously created the impression that he was also burdened by his price tag.
The France international's second coming at United had, like the man with whom he has developed a foil, felt as though it would never live up to the hype which surrounded it.
That £89m fee had appeared, for a time, as though it was being worn in coins on his shoulders every time he stepped onto the pitch.
Fleeting moments of brilliance were offset by pedestrian and anonymous performances that barely even warranted a name-check.
But his renaissance in tandem with Ibrahimovic can now propel United to their desired place among the EPL's elite and, whisper it, a potential outside shot at the title race.
Mourinho's obsession with emulating Alex Ferguson's accomplishments and subsequent legacy are finally coming home to roost in a performance reminiscent of the Old Trafford icon.
Finally, the Red Devils are beginning to show traits of that old Ferguson magic blended with the Portuguese's notorious cunning; perhaps best typified by Marcos Rojo's continued habit of executing two-footed lunges which manage to evade a fitting punishment from officials.
The United manager may have found his new Diego Costa as well as a winning formula.