Very special but we’ll take a pass

José Mourinho confirmed today what many have long suspected – he would love to manage Manchester United when Sir Alex Ferguson retires. While the United board would be foolish to turn down a man who has won five league titles, a UEFA Cup and the Champions League since 2003, would the fans really want him?

“I would consider going to Manchester United. But United have to consider if they want me to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson,” Mourinho said today. “If they do, then of course. I like England, where the fans are very passionate and make the game a beautiful occasion with such an incredible atmosphere.”

Famed for his unrivalled ego, the self-title Special One would probably find the only job big enough for him at Old Trafford. After all, Internazionale has always felt like a temporary home, especially at a time when Italian clubs are not challenging for the biggest titles. Yet, for all Mourinho’s charisma, confidence and obvious ability there is something unsettling about the thought of the Portuguese coach arriving in Manchester any time soon.

Mourinho first came to most United fans’ attention after Porto’s 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in 2004. The result that knocked United out of the Champions League on Porto’s way to victory in the competition. Mourinho’s dance down the touchline and fist-pumping celebration was perhaps the first sign of the coach’s bravado.

The Old Trafford quickstep wasn’t the first or last time Mourinho has become involved in some unsavoury polemic. Mourinho has instigated controversial run-ins with Arsene Wenger, whom he unfairly called a voyeur, and latterly the managers of Milan, Juventus and Roma, whom he openly mocked. The coach was also fined £200,000 for his part in the Ashley Cole ‘tapping up’ affair.

More seriously, in 2005 Mourinho accused referee Anders Frisk and coach Frank Rijkaard of meeting at half–time during a Champions League tie between Chelsea and Barcelona. Mourinho inferred that the referee was biased, and the subsequent death threats from Chelsea supporters drove the Swedish official to an early retirement. It is still a serious blot on Mourinho’s copybook, which has been littered with many more entertaining and insightful comments.

Despite the doubts Ferguson has always held a cordial relationship with Mourinho, whom he famously shares an expensive bottle of wine with after matches.

“I got on very well with him at Chelsea and I think it was a loss to the game when he went. I actually enjoyed watching him on the television. I thought he was good. He was cocky and confident but it was good for the game,” said Ferguson prior to last season’s Champions League encounter with Inter.

“Right away he came in and said, ‘I’m the Special One’, and we all thought, ‘Who is this?’ and his team thought, ‘We’d better win here’. They got off to a start like nothing on earth and everybody was chasing their tail for the rest of the season and the next season.”

It’s an assessment on which many United fans can concur. Mourinho is entertaining, and after all that is what football is supposed to be about. He breathed life into the Premiership at just the right time, and took the focus away from the increasingly acrimonious Ferguson-Wenger relationship that had culminated in ‘Pizzagate’ in October 2004.

But Mourinho’s stylish way with words has rarely translated to the pitch. “Look, we’re not entertaining? I don’t care; we win,” he once said in response to criticism about Chelsea’s playing style. For all Mourinho’s obvious talents and huge character flaws, this is perhaps the single biggest reason why he should never take the helm at Manchester United.

Mourinho’s Titles and Awards

  • Portuguese Liga: 2002-03, 2003-04
  • Taça de Portugal: 2002-03
  • SuperCup Cândido de Oliveira: 2003
  • UEFA Champions League: 2004
  • UEFA Cup: 2003
  • FA Premier League: 2004-05, 2005-06
  • FA Cup: 2007
  • Football League Cup: 2005, 2007
  • FA Community Shield: 2005
  • Serie A: 2008-09
  • Supercoppa Italiana: 2008
  • UEFA Manager of the Year: 2002/03, 2003/04
  • World Soccer Magazine Coach of the Year: 2003/04, 2004/05
  • BBC Sports Personality of Year Coach Award: 2004/05
  • FA Premier League Manager of the Year: 2004/05, 2005/06
  • IFFHS World Manager of the Year: 2004, 2005
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Comments

  1. Matt says

    But surely Mourinho is the only game in town ? None of the “natural” successors (Keane, Bruce, Hughes etc.) seem viable candidates right now …

    Following Fergie will need a big personality, and Mourinho has that in spades. His man-management skills and winning mentality will also be vital; You only need to look at what happened at Chelsea after he left as evidence that he managed to hold a pretty fractured club together … and OT will be plunged into uncertainty once Fergie goes.

    I agree his teams have lacked the flair demanded at OT; but when Fergie goes, we’ll need a pragmatist to steady the ship for a season or two.

  2. Julian says

    @ Matt. Despite the reservations, he is indeed the only game in town. Those who want Bruce, Hughes, Keane or even absurdly, Cantona, are way off the mark. Needless to say,this is a huge job, far bigger than the one Fergie took over in 1986. It’s going to take everything from personality, experience and success (“at the highest level”). We do have perhaps two more seasons left after this in which to consider this properly so that the right choice is made when the time comes.

  3. Tone says

    No thanks, who would want United turned into a team of 1-0 robots grinding out results?
    I also think a celebrity manager like him would be very quick to spit the dummy if things looked iffy. Ideally it would be great to promote somebody from inside the club, but I don’t think Choccy/ Phelan/ Meulensteen would be up for it. Other than that I’d stick with the dour scot formula and go for Moyes – he’s a good age, done good things with limited resources and knows the premiership inside out. The only thing against him would be limited European experience.

  4. 7Bestie7 says

    I absolutely detest the very thought of this man taking over from Sir Alex. People seem to think that because United are the (one of?) biggest clubs out there then we need to have the biggest name to manage us when Sir Alex retires. Not a chance.

    The club needs to find a manager who plays our way and who believes in our philosophies. Youth, experience, flair and style. When they get a shortlist of THOSE managers then try to get the biggest/best name on that list. To me Mourinho ticks none of those boxes and has an even bigger flaw to his character – He only cares about Mourinho.

  5. Marco says

    @7Bestie7. Completely agree mate. And the manager that seems closest to your checklist for me would be Martin O’ Neill. He’s consistently come up with the goods, whether it’s been at Leceister, Celtic or Villa. I’d love to see him at Old Trafford. I’m sure he’d follow in the wily Scot’s mould of offering promising youngsters a chance, reigning in big egos and churning out teams with pace, flair and style.

  6. Cabronyc says

    I hope he smoked something before the interview that makes him talk shit like that. I’m sure we can find a manager who is worried only about playing the game and the team, not seeing his own arrogant mug on TV every other night. Of the top of me head I would say Martin O’Neil or David Moyse seem more up for it that Jose “Give-me-money-to-spend-on-old-players” Mourinho.
    If he becomes manager nobody under 25 years old will catch a spot in the first 11. I think Sir B. Charlton addressed this very issue a few months ago.

  7. Ichiro says

    Mourinho might almost be guaranteed instant success, he’s so good at motivating his players, but I’m suspicious about his long term prospects. He’s never been at one club more than two seasons and never built a team. His purchases as someone above mentioned have been mediocre. United need a manager for the long term and one who can nurture young players and spot greatness in potential signings.

    Personally I wouldn’t mind Ole Solskjaer being the next manager. Might sound crazy but look what Josep Guardiola, who is only a couple of years older has done at Barcelona winning the treble in his first season after being promoted from reserve team coach. I think Solskjaer has the best potential out of any of the ex-players.

    • Cavalry says

      @Ichiro: Guardiola inherited a side chock full of talent. My grandmother could’ve managed that team to victory. Of course the treble is impressive, but let’s see how he matures as a manager. He’s already done something foolish- traded Eto’o and a boatload of cash for the overrated Swede.

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