It was the worst kept secret in football. No, not José Mourinho’s return to Chelsea six years after being unceremoniously sacked by Roman Abramovich, but the revelation that Portuguese coach was desperate to take the vacant Manchester United job this summer. Those following Mourinho’s flirtation with United over the past two years, whether in the pages of the broadsheets, or the more private spaces of Red Issue, could do little but chuckle at Mourinho’s rediscovered love of the Blues.
Mourinho didn’t end up at Old Trafford of course; the coach’s penchant for controversy apparently counting against the 50-year-old in the United boardroom. Still, with Manchester City and Chelsea also having appointed new managers this summer, the Premier League’s top three will each break new ground come the new season’s start in August.
United, of course, will suffer the greatest culture shock as David Moyes takes the helm following Sir Alex Ferguson’s 26 years in charge. With four coaches and a plethora of executive changes, stability is far from the watchword at Old Trafford this summer – a curious observation given that Moyes – trophyless as a manager – proffers the quality as his leading asset.
Yet, with Stamford Bridge Mourinho’s destination United fans will watch, one suspects in part horror, part delight, at the Portuguese maestro’s whirlwind of chaos, conspiracy and ample trophy collection.
But whatever silverware Mourinho secures in his second spell at Chelsea his presence comes at a cost – and an increasing one at that if three years in Madrid is any evidence. The acrimony generated at Santiago Bernabéu under Mourinho degenerated into something approaching parody. Farce of the kind that lacks any self-awareness.
Mourinho’s propensity to court argument with players, directors and the club President seemingly knew neither strategy nor understanding of the consequences.
Sergio Ramos was publicly embarrassed, Iker Casillas ignominiously dropped, and even Cristiano Ronaldo criticised. The coach blamed Braziliam Marcelo for an injury, ridiculed Pepe for a similar distress, and likened Karim Benezema to the family cat when, said Mourinho, he really wanted a dog.
It was little wonder that Mourinho so spectacularly lost the Merengues dressing room – the famed man-management skills deserting the 50-year-old to be replaced a destructive narcissism.
It is a trait that drove Johan Cruyff to declare that “Mourinho will never win a prize again.”
“I think that because of the way he acted in Madrid,” said the former Barcelona coach. “He blamed everyone and everybody when something went wrong in Madrid. And he is playing games with people who are working there.
“Mourinho played an unbelievably negative part in his Madrid years. He moved out general manager Jorge Valdano and later he did the same with director of football Zinedine Zidane. And in the end he dropped Iker Casillas.
“All these actions were the result of Mourinho’s private wars with a few of the biggest club icons. This behaviour does not work in football. It only works in paralysing the dressing room.”
Although none of this truly precludes Chelsea from winning big under the new manager. Given the significant level of investment the Blues have made in recent years – and will surely make this summer – it will be a major shock if Chelsea do not challenge more prominently for the Premier League next season.
Over at Eastlands the Abu Dhabi Emirati look set to appoint a far more conservative, if highly respected, choice in Manuel Pellegrini. While Robert Mancini eventually descended into childish carping at his new-found rivals across town, few expect Pellegrini to stay anything other than classy.
The 59-year-old may have failed in one season at Real Madrid, but few remember his Villareal side with anything but affection. Organised at the back, the Yellow Submarine then weaved a mesmeric attacking pattern in a 4-2-2-2 formation that took the Castellón side to within a penalty kick of the Champions League final in 2006.
Widely considered one of the continent’s finest tacticians, El Ingeniero should also develop a good rapport with media and City supporters given a well-earned reputation for eloquent communication, albeit with limited English. And while Pellegrini’s charge is to win trophies – lots of them – his is an appointment that should suit City’s ‘continental’ system involving a plethora of management layers, from the owners down to the head coach.
Although Pellegrini’s dismissal after a single season in Madrid is a stain, trophies are not lacking from the résumé, with major silverware secured in Chile, Ecuador, and Argentina. Should the Chilean bring success to Eastlands, United supporters, cognitive dissonance at the forefront, might find much to respect in the greatest foe.
Which leaves United’s new man the odd one in three, with trophies conspicuously absent from the 50-year-old Scot’s record in more than 11 years at Goodison Park. It is seemingly an appointment that owes much to prudence and youth development, if not continuity many had first expected.
Moyes is also the safest public relations choice, although good press wins few trophies. After all, the jury is firmly out on whether Mourinho’s conceit, Pellegrini’s poise or Moyes’ determination will prove the safest bet.
And whatever choice proves the winner, next season’s Premier League should lack not for intrigue.
- Porto: Primeira Liga 2003, 2004, Taça de Portugal 2003, Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira 2003, Champions League 2004, UEFA Cup 2003
- Chelsea: Premier League 2005, 2006, FA Cup 2007, League Cup 2005, 2007, Community Shield 2005
- Internazionale: Serie A 2009, 2010, Coppa Italia 2010, Supercoppa 2008, Champions League 2010
- Real Madrid: La Liga 20112, Copa del Rey 2011, Supercopa 2012#
- Universidad Católica (Chile): Copa Interamericana 1994, Copa Chile 1995
- LDU Quito (Ecuador): Serie A 1999
- San Lorenzo (Argentina): Primera División 2001, Copa Mercosur 2001
- River Plate (Argentina): Primera División 2003
- Villarreal: Intertoto Cup 2004
- Preston North End: Football League Second Division 2000