Great news for Manchester United fans last week; Louis van Gaal has been sacked and Jose Mourinho has finally signed on the dotted line. After months, no, years of speculation about whether he’d take on the hot seat he has finally put pen to paper and accepted his “dream job”.
The United fans I know have been in dreamland themselves since he signed. In typical fashion they have practically assured me that the league title is going to Old Trafford before a ball has even been kicked, almost out-Boro-ing Middlesbrough fans (who are notorious for it round my way) with their optimism. Whilst I don’t doubt Mourinho is a better appointment than Louis van Gaal, my question is: is he the right man for the job or is he just the best one available?
Mourinho’s record in managerial achievements speaks for itself: winning league titles, domestic cups and European honours all over continent. His last job yielded a league title for Chelsea before his unceremonious sacking in December after a woeful first half of the season and this is the start of why I think this might be a bad idea for United.
Jose Mourinho is a singular man, and that I mean stubborn, arrogant and disrespectful, and in an institution like Manchester United I don’t know how well this will go down. When he first came to the Premier League he was young and fresh. He had a touch of arrogance but he tempered it well. Roman Abramovich was inexperienced in dealing with football managers and gave him the run of the place. After a few years though, and repeated clashes with Abramovich, Mourinho left Chelsea “by mutual consent”, conducting an impromptu press conference on a random wall in west London.
His ego deflated somewhat Mourinho then took over Internazionale and performed well there, building his reputation again as one of the top managers in Europe, capped by winning his second Champions’ League trophy. Then came his much-publicised move to Real Madrid.
Now Real area different kettle of fish to practically any other club in the world. Their fans are notoriously demanding of their managers and players. This is a club where a season without a Champions League final appearance is viewed as a disappointment. It is also a club run with an iron fist. Player power is a huge factor in the Spanish club and when players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and then-captain Iker Casillas clash with you then there is a problem.
Not only did he clash with his players but also with the media. He claimed that referees were biased against him and that FIFA gave Barcelona special treatment. He became drawn into arguments with other managers and was famously involved in a pitch-side altercation with Barça assistant Tito Vilanova. After repeated embarrassments Real chief Florentino Perez had had enough and called time on Mourinho’s tenure.
Mourinho then stated he wanted to go somewhere he was loved and in 2013 he returned to Chelsea and a hero’s welcome. Sadly his poor attitude and embarrassing behaviour followed him. Towards the end of his second stint there wasn’t a week that went by where he didn’t complain about referees, the FA, the media, opposition fans, the opposition themselves (saying at one point that it “wasn’t fair” that the opposing team were better than Chelsea). He pretty much lost the entire dressing room because his inflated ego refused to see the problem was himself. Abramovich acted more swiftly this time and removed Mourinho from his post after only two and a half years.
Mourinho has returned to management with possibly the most famous club in the world. Manchester United is an institution known around the globe even by none footballing fans. Any antics by Mourinho that may bring the club into disrepute would have huge implications on their global brand, especially in the incredibly important Asian markets. His dressing room will be full of the same legends-in-their-own-lunchtime as Real Madrid and they will not take kindly to his riding roughshod over them.
Mourinho certainly has the ability to lead the club. The question is if he can reign in his own self-importance and allow the club to flourish. I’m not so sure, given his record, that he can do that but time will certainly tell on this one.