Is Mourinho the right man for Manchester United?
The Portuguese manager has a peerless record, but fans ask if he can win trophies the United way
Jose Mourinho's very public job application for the managership of Manchester United - still filled, lest we forget, by Sir Alex Ferguson - has thrown the cat among the pigeons as United fans flood internet chatrooms to discuss the pros and cons of appointing the soi-disant 'Special One' to one of the most pressured jobs in football.
The 46-year-old manager of Inter Milan sang Sir Alex's praises in the Times at the weekend and said that his "football is English football", somewhat to the surprise of the Internazionale hierarchy, whom he had to swiftly placate with a disclaimer on the club's official website saying that he had been misquoted. But the assumption in football is that if anyone has big enough feet to step into Fergie's shoes at Old Trafford, then that person is Mourinho.
But Manchester United fans are riven by the thought of Sir Alex's succession, not least because it will pitch the club into uncertainty for the first time in more than two decades (Ferguson took over in 1986). On the one hand, Mourinho's record in top flight football is peerless; in just nine full seasons as a manager, he has won 14 trophies, including the Champions League, two Premier League trophies and Serie A. He has won almost 70 per cent of the 400-plus games that his teams (Benfica, Leiria, Porto, Chelsea and Inter) have contested.
He also has a winning mentality, is a shrewd man manager and has developed fiercely strong ties with the fans at his previous clubs. He manages to keep journalists on board, too, with his natural intelligence and ability to provide good copy. He is as near to a sure thing as one can find in football management - but there are negatives.
The Portuguese manager is renowned for putting out teams that are incredibly difficult to beat or even score against. In the 2004-05 season at Chelsea, when Mourinho won his first Premier League title, the Blues were beaten just once and only conceded 15 goals over 38 games (including a run of ten games without a strike against them). As impressive as this is, it represents a dour style of football which is anathema to the free-flowing, attack-at-any-cost mentality fostered by Sir Alex at Old Trafford.
There are also concerns about recruitment. Yes, he bought some great players at Chelsea – Drogba, Essien, Carvalho – but he had Roman Abramovich's fortune at his disposal. As for bringing on young players, for all the enthusiasm he displayed in the Times interview for this aspect of management, there is precious little evidence in his CV of a youth policy. Contrast this - again - with Sir Alex, who has developed at least two crops of world-beating youngsters at Manchester United.
But mindful perhaps that winning is everything in modern football, there is no great revolt against Mourinho among Man Utd supporters. "Taking over from SAF will be a poisoned chalice and Jose is amongst the very few I suspect could handle it," wrote Michael Saunter on the Times messageboard, while another contributor listed Mourinho's positives as "Instils a winning mentality" and "Champions League experience".
Dan Wellis went further still, saying: "As a Manchester United fan, there is no one I would prefer to see step in after Sir Alex retires. Even as he beat us to title after title, I couldn't help liking the man".
While some doubt whether he understands the fabled 'United way', Lino sums it up neatly when he wrote: "Let's face it, we didn't play the United way all last season and it didn't take much gloss off winning the league". ·
Comments are now closed on this article