Tag José Mourinho

Tag José Mourinho

The Mourinho question

April 30, 2011 Tags: , Opinion 29 comments

After Manchester United departed the Veltins Arena on Tuesday night with two away goals it left supporters declaring the Red Devils all but in the final. With United expected to fly the flag for England on home turf at Wembley on 28 May, the only question was: who will join Sir Alex Ferguson’s side? Only one of the Spanish giants could make it. Enter José Mourinho.

Real  Madrid welcomed Barcelona to the Bernabeu for the other semi-final, with Mourinho looking to outwit Pep Guardiola for the second time in a week.  Mourinho’s desire to succeed Ferguson at United has not gone unnoticed in the press. The Portuguese professes his love for English football and Sir Alex has even made reference to the idea of Mourinho taking his position when it becomes available.

But if Mourinho is playing the waiting game, and using Madrid as a stepping stone, then he could be in for a long wait if the semi-final is used in evidence. With three red cards, only one actually handed to a player, and plenty of controversy, Barcelona midfielder Xavi was moved to describe the result as a “win for football”.  It has promised so much, with some of the greatest players in the world present, but delivered so little in terms of actual football.

The game ended with Barcelona taking the same advantage back to Camp Nou for the second leg that United achieved the night before. Yet, in the Spanish capital Mourinho’s side was instructed to stop Barcelona playing, with defender Pepe pushed into midfield. After all, it had worked in the Copa Del Rey final a week previously, which Madrid won 1-0 thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s header deep into extra time.

However, in the European game Pepe was harshly sent off for a late tackle on Dani Alves, who along with Sergio Busquests and Pedro, was one of the great’ play actors’ on the night. The dismissal proved to be a massive turning point in the game but in the end beautiful football prevailed as Lionel Messi went on to score a fantastic brace.

The tense and aggressive atmosphere at the Bernabeu spilt over into half time as Barcelona’s substitute goalkeeper was sent off after sharing his thoughts with Alvaro Arbeloa and Madrid’s staff on the bullish tactics employed.

However, the real pantomime villain of the night was Mourinho, who was sent to the stands for sarcastically applauding the referee over Pepe’s red card. But the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ also angered many Madrid supporters with what can only be described as anti-football tactics. The sole purpose of Mourinho’s set-up was to stop Barcelona from deploying the possession game to its fullest effect, and therefore negating the risk of Los Cules repeating the 5-0 hammering at Camp Nou earlier this season.

The tactical approach taken by Mourinho was a direct reaction to that loss, with the negative attitude displayed even after Madrid rested many stars the previous weekend. Madrid knocked six past third  placed Valencia at the Mestalla despite the understrength team, with Gonzalo Higuain bagging a hat-trick. Remarkably, he was still denied an opportunity against Barcelona.

Even Cristiano Ronaldo’s frustration with the negative approach was apparent. The former United player’s team-mates failed to put any pressure on Barça defence, as the visitors passed freely their own half, with Real dropping back to its territory. The sole purpose was to protect Los Merengues’ goal and then give the ball to Ronaldo on the counter. The negative approach in a fixture of such magnitude tarnished the reputation of the Spanish game to such an extent that it hardly resembled a football match.

It was always going to be a feisty affair though with Mourinho kicking off the mind games in his pre-match press conference on Tuesday afternoon.  After all, for Mourinho, the fixture begins in the press room, not on the pitch. Indeed, the use of off-the- field antics to inspire his players replicates Ferguson at United; both share an immense gift to manipulate the media and motivate their players while unsettling the opposition.

Meanwhile, Mourinho’s persona makes him as a great candidate to handle the pressure that comes with managing a club of United’s standing; a club with a similar global presence to Madrid.

However, more than the controversy it is Mourinho’s anti-football tactics that have raised questions about his ability to keep the Old Trafford faithful entertained. The Portuguese manager has a proven track record of winning trophies but it is his penchant to ‘park the bus’ in certain fixtures that raises suspicions over his capacity to replace Ferguson.

United’s foundations were beautifully outlined in the recent film ‘United’ and its accompanying documentary, ‘Sir Bobby Charlton: Football Icon’.  Charlton spoke of a conversation held with Jimmy Murphy in the 1950s where the Welsh coach described United’s support, drawn as it was from the industrial community of Trafford Park. ‘They come to Old Trafford on a Saturday expecting to be entertained,’ said Murphy. 50 years on and the club still retains these values; the belief that United is there for the supporters and it is the responsibility of the staff and players to make sure the faithful is entertained.

These ideals ensure many ask the question:  is Mourinho really suitable for Old Trafford?

Is José Mourinho right for Manchester United?

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Special one applies for special job

November 1, 2010 Tags: Opinion 55 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson says that Manchester United must appoint an experienced manager as his successor, with the Scot likely to retire come summer 2012 at the latest. Little surprise then that Real Madrid boss José Mourinho has very publicly applied for the job this weekend. Mourinho’s contract at Madrid conveniently ends in 2012.

Such is Mourinho’s desire to manage Manchester United that only a boardroom impasse will halt the Portuguese coach’s appointment to the Old Trafford hotseat in 18 months time. Noises emanating from Mourinho’s camp in recent weeks have strongly suggested that even limited financial backing under the Glazer regime will not put the 47-year-old off.

While it is thought some Old Trafford insiders, such as Bobby Charlton, are not keen on appointing Mourinho, the weight of momentum seems firmly behind the former Inter Milan coach.

Indeed, Mourinho yesterday called the United job one fit only for a “special” manager. No heavy hint intended, of course. Although the coach, dubbed the “translator” in Barcelona after his spell in the city under Bobby Robson, does not expect the position to be vacated anytime soon. Not until 2012 that is.

“Football without Alex Ferguson? I’m not sure that will happen any day soon,” said the Real Madrid coach.

“The man lives and breathes football and Manchester United is his club. His hunger and desire to win the biggest trophies remains so I cannot see the day he considers walking away from football approaching.

“The Manchester United job is special and only a special manager is good enough to take the job on if and when it does become available.

“Of course, jobs like that don’t become available every day so the interest will be vast. It’s a job everyone will want.”

Mourinho will arrive at Old Trafford with plenty of baggage of course. The Portuguese’s monumental ego, often so extravagant that the line between coach and club is inseparable, too often crosses that unhealthy horizon between confidence and arrogance. It’s an accusation that can never be levelled at Ferguson, whatever his obvious fallibilities.

Ferguson, in his own mind at least, has become United and when he eventually retires this will come crashing down around his ears but for the moment it is often United’s source of unity and strength.

The former Porto coach also has limited track record of developing young players, although this is of little surprise given that Mourinho has failed to keep a job more than three years in a career that has already spanned six clubs at managerial level. In fairness to Mourinho his current side is packed with young talent, not that he played any part in their development of course.

Moreover, with the youth football market more globalised by the day, Ferguson hasn’t truly brought through a young Mancunian since Wes Brown in 1998. In the intervening years only John O’Shea, Jonny Evans and Darren Fletcher have made it out of United’s academy and into regular first team action. The rest – to many sadly – are ever younger imports from far afield.

This isn’t an explicit criticism of Ferguson though. It is harder than ever before to push local talent through an academy in the face of short-term pressures and the competitive global market for youth talent.

Another accusation levelled at Mou is that the coach needs huge funds to build a team. Certainly at Chelsea Roman Abramovich lavished Mourinho with unlimited funds. Who wouldn’t take them? Success came with Michael Essian, Didier Drogba and Petr Cech among others; many of the coach’s cheaper purchases failed though. Elsewhere, Mourinho’s success was built on more modest means.

Mixed success in the transfer market is true of most of the world’s leading coaches. Ferguson is certainly not immune to the criticism of failure in the transfer market – at either end of the scale.

Meanwhile, this summer’s purchases of Mesut Özil and Sami Khadeira by Mourinho for a combined £24 million arguably look better value than Ferguson’s similar sum spent on Chris Smalling, Javier Hernandez and Bébé. Angel di Maria cost significantly more but the Argentinian’s quality is such this season that it already looks like money well spent. The jury though is still out on €10 million Pedro Leon.

The point is not to compare as it is irrelevant but whatever the many drawbacks with Mourinho, United will probably be in safe, albeit short-term, hands.

Ferguson is a keen admirer and friend of Mourinho despite their long-standing rivalry in England. Implicitly the United manager endorsed Mourinho this week, subscribing to the view that the United job has specific requirements.

“I don’t think Manchester United could ever go down the road of having a young manager, to be honest with you,” said Ferguson after the Wayne Rooney contract saga concluded last week.

“It’s a job that needs a lot of experience at the top end of the game. We have the benefit of my 24 years at the club, so fortunately that’s the way we could deal with it.

“At Manchester United, you can never be surprised. There is always something happening in the club and there are always issues to deal with.

“To be manager of our club, you have to have someone strong who can deal with all these issues.”

Mourinho is certainly that but perhaps the criticism of the Setúbal-born coach that strikes most deeply at Old Trafford is of his teams’ style of play. Certainly Inter’s display at Camp Nou last season was one of the most negative witnessed in recent years. Chelsea rarely thrilled with attacking football under Mou.

But then comes the contradiction, with Real Madrid boasting a plus 20 goal difference after nine games this season. Arguably, Los Merengues is playing the best football on the planet.

Certainly better than anything United has come up with since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure in summer 2008.

Mourinho is a figure many United fans love to hate. Reds may have just 18 months to get used to the idea.

Three amigos bridge generation gap

May 31, 2010 Tags: , , , , Opinion 16 comments

When Jose Mourinho takes charge of Manchester United in summer 2012 he will have on his coaching staff three recently retired club legends. That’s the scenario posed by the week’s events, with the Portuguese signing on at Real Madrid, while Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville were each offered coaching roles at Old Trafford.

With more than 2,000 club appearances between them, the trio has amassed a wealth of experience at the club that is only surpassed by the manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, himself.

Indeed, with the each now taking UEFA B and A coaching qualifications as the twilight of three magnificent careers approaches, the Scot believes that Scholes, Giggs and Neville will extend their stay at Old Trafford beyond two decades.

“They are living proof for young players that the United system allows players to succeed,” Ferguson told French sports newspaper L’Equipe.

“When they stop playing they will stay. All three are taking their coaching diplomas. I don’t think the club will pass up that much experience.”

Should the amigos remain at Old Trafford beyond their playing careers it is likely each will outlast their manager, who at 68 many pundits feel is unlikely to continue beyond a further two seasons. They will also offer an important element of continuity during what is likely to be a tumultuous period at the club post Ferguson’s retirement.

The risk of turmoil following Ferguson’s walk into the sunset is already noted, with United”s chief executive David Gill promising bond investors that the club will – no pun intended – “manage” the process.  Still, there is little secret in the ceo’s preference for the Portuguese coach to take over at Old Trafford in Ferguson’s wake.

Indeed, while Gill this week claimed he will consult Ferguson on the Scot’s successor there will be few dissenting noises emanating from the manager’s Carrington office if his good friend Mourinho is offered the Old Trafford hot-seat.

“Alex is on a rolling contract. He is doing well, he is happy and he has a good staff who he works very closely with. When he decides he wants to retire he will have a word with me and say ‘The end of this season or next season’,” said Gill this week.

“We would work with him in terms of identifying a replacement. In terms of criteria we will sit down and say ‘What attributes must a manager have? Lots of things come into that. British or European? What experience they have, languages all that sort of thing as well as their track record.

“The final decision will be discussed with Alex, Bobby Charlton and the owners. I think Alex will be the key. He knows people. He will have a big role in advising and being a sounding board.”

Perhaps no surprise then that Mourinho – officially unveiled as Real Madrid manager today after the club concluded negotiations with European champions Inter Milan for the Portuguese’s services – has inserted a summer 2012 get-out clause into his new multi-million Euro contract. After all,  Mourinho’s desire for a return to England is no secret.

Whomever takes over at United – even a manager with Mourinho’s force of personality – will face not only the challenge of leading a huge organisation but Ferguson’s imposing shadow, which pervades every element of the club. Ferguson’s influence, although somewhat diluted through greater delegation, famously extended to every granular detail of the club.

Mourinho is different of course, rarely taking an interest in club matters beyond the first team squad, with little reputation for developing youth or indeed staying at any club for more than a few seasons.

Important then that the club retains a link with the past, with Mourinho’s winning track-record likely to prove attractive to Gill and his paymasters in Tampa.

If – some say when – the former Porto, Chelsea and Inter coach succeeds Ferguson in Manchester then it is United’s triumvirate of playing legends that will offer that crucial role.

Poll: would you want Jose at United?

April 19, 2010 Tags: , Polls 22 comments

Reports today suggest that the Manchester United board is lining up Jose Mourinho as successor to Sir Alex Ferguson. The Scot, 69 this year, will retire at the end of next season according to the reports. Mourinho is one of the few managers with the personality and track record to succeed Ferguson but would you want him at Old Trafford?

With league titles in Portugal, England and Italy and the Champions League title in 2004, Mourinho comes with a copper-bottomed guarantee of success. But the Portuguese coach’s explosive personality also ensures controversy, while critics can also point to the dour style in which Mourniho’s Chelsea side often played.

Would you want Jose at United?

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Very special but we’ll take a pass

July 28, 2009 Tags: Opinion 9 comments

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