Mourinho reinvents Mourinho
The reinvented manager's faith in Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford is proof that he is remodelling his game
Jose Mourinho has always prided himself on knowing best.
Even when the walls were fast closing in on the "Special One", he continued stuck to his guns.
That stubbornness often proved to be the architect of his greatest managerial downfalls.
He saw in 2016 with the infamous phrase "palpable discord" still ringing in his ears after being unceremoniously jettisoned from Chelsea, just seven months after winning the EPL title.
But with a New Year appears to have come a different side to Mourinho; one almost alien to the man who was condemned to isolation after being removed from the Stamford Bridge hot seat.
Manchester United's renaissance continues to show the Portuguese manager the error of his ways after they extended their unbeaten run to 13 games in all competitions with a comprehensive 2-0 win over West Ham yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Mourinho always knew that his Old Trafford tenure would prove to be either his great redemption or ultimate undoing.
Taking on the task of reviving one of football's greatest institutions had already claimed the reputations of his two predecessors as collateral damage.
For a time, he looked set to become a third by risking his time in the last-chance saloon with flashes of the trademark incendiary behaviour and petulance which have often characterised his career during a decade-long spell at the pinnacle of the European game.
But tellingly, he has avoided what has undoubtedly been his greatest failing: self-destruction.
Launching water bottles and remonstrating with officials had appeared small change when stacked against his blinkered approach of ostracising players, often to his own detriment.
Offloading Juan Mata heralded the beginning of the end at Chelsea, but no player has better encapsulated the change in Mourinho despite the playmaker's bizarre withdrawal in August's Community Shield on the grounds that he was United's smallest player on the pitch.
Height did not seem to matter when the Spain international cut through several West Ham defenders to slot home the opener from Marcus Rashford's cut-back as the London Stadium finally boasted a statement-like performance and outcome truly befitting of its prestige.
The substitute duo's combination vindicated Rashford's inclusion at the expense of Anthony Martial.
AVERSION TO YOUTH
United's home-grown hero was widely expected to be condemned to life away from Old Trafford given Mourinho's well-documented aversion to youth both at Chelsea and further afield.
It would have been far easier for him to fixate over luring James Rodriguez from Real Madrid this month, with his former club willing to do business for an eye-watering fee, but Mourinho's perseverance with the pair at his disposal is another sign of a new-found maturity.
So, too, is his belief in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who continues to defy convention by banishing Wayne Rooney to the first-team fringes and becoming United's top scorer, now with 18 goals.
Mourinho already has the makings of a squad capable of challenging for the title, maybe not this season but almost certainly before the 2017/18 campaign has run its course.
The last time he enjoyed a seven-game winning run was exactly three years ago, when his Chelsea side were mere months away from gatecrashing Liverpool's planned EPL assault and plotting their own eventual ascent to the summit, little over 12 months later.
In that respect at least, history is beginning to repeat itself for the reinvented United manager.