Manchester United have shown total disregard for their reputation by appointing Jose Mourinho, a new manager who could drag them into the gutter.
So the ‘Special One’ is suddenly manager of the ‘desperate ones’. For a club who were this week ranked as the world’s most valuable brand in football alongside Real Madrid, there is a degree of poverty about Manchester United’s decision to appoint Jose Mourinho as their new manager.
It is rather fitting that Mourinho, a 53-year-old man-child in his last lamentable public outing at Chelsea, has this morning been paraded holding up a United shirt with a number one on it. The life and times of Jose has always been about looking out for number one rather than the greater good of the club’s image.
It is three years since Mourinho said he was a changed man – the ‘Happy One” – after being wheeled out as Chelsea manager for a second stint at Stamford Bridge.
We have discovered in the intervening period that he had not changed a lot. He lifted the Premier League and League Cup last year but his tenure quickly descended into farce and chaos as he fell out with players, members of his staff and match officials amid a plethora of heavy fines from the Football Association.
He was dismissed in December with Chelsea languishing a lowly 16th in the Premier League standings, having won four and lost nine out of 16 league games only seven months after he clasped the Premier League trophy to his bosom.
It is fair to say Chelsea did not weep when the ruins of Mourinho’s second spell at the club was brought to a miserable halt, more a sense of relief that it was all over.
Yet United have suddenly invited this one-man wrecking ball into their club. It is a huge risk because if you are a bit unhinged at 23, there is every chance you will still be unreliable at 33, 43 and 53.
Just as a leopard does not change its spots, even if it were aware of them, Mourinho has shown no signs or willingness to alter his character when he alters his colours. There is a lack of self-awareness governing the Portuguese martinet that is as concerning as it is comical and catastrophic.
United’s decision to appoint Mourinho makes little or no sense in trying to reach the palace of wisdom, coming off their FA Cup final win over Crystal Palace. It smacks of a desperate urge to seize instant gratification, and could yet lead to greater problems for the club moving on.
When you are caught between the Devil and the deep blue sea, and do not have a way out of the Van Galling era, why not opt for a real Red Devil? In Mourinho, United have appointed a devilish figure whose recent behaviour, or results it should be noted, are hardly befitting of United’s standards nor traditional attacking style of play.
Of course, Mourinho is a coach with a track record of winning national titles: a whopping eight from Porto, Chelsea, Internazionale and Real Madrid, and American owners seek results no matter the cost. The Glazers’ eyes have clearly glazed over after Van Gaal spent £300m to finish fifth. In his first interview as United manager, the stress is put on the need to “win”.
Entertainment, of a sort, will be guaranteed since Mourinho won’t be boring, even if his playing style is. Cristiano Ronaldo fell out with him due partly over his dour tactics during his three years at Real Madrid when he became as much of a circus act as a coach. This was a bloke who prodded the Barcelona coachTito Vilanova in the eye during the El Clasico in 2011, and an apology was not immediately forthcoming.
It was a moment that gave United’s greatest son, Bobby Charlton, serious doubts about the manager – concerns that have seemingly been cast aside by United’s owners in the new appointment:
“A United manager wouldn’t do that. Mourinho is a really good coach but that’s as far as I would go really. He pontificates too much for my liking. ”
If Mourinho really was the right man for United, why did he not succeed Fergie? He has only been imported because United have developed a severe losing habit under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal.
The United fans who complained about LVG’s style may soon realise that they have a coach who is equally sterile. Mourinho’s success is about solid defensive foundations, not swashbuckling teams.
L) and Manchester United’s Manager Sir Alex Ferguson – AFP
It would be astonishing if he somehow changes his outlook at this juncture of his career.
Of course, a fawning tabloid press love Mourinho, but that is because he’s a constant source of pithy soundbites that provide wardrobe size headlines, not because he is worthy of the job of United manager. He is a cheque-book manager best enjoyed by cheque-book journalists for being the gift that keeps on giving.
There is invariably a limited shelf-life with his teams. He somehow managed to turn Chelsea from English champions just over a year ago to a squad of flotsam and jetsam, many of whom reputedly came to despise a coach with an ego larger than Old Trafford. The reason he tends to last only a few years is because he usually becomes of measurably more interest than the club he manages. It is hugely doubtful if he will see out the three-year contract he has signed. He is a name, but where is the long-term project of developing kids like Fergie managed? There is none. The Ferguson legacy feels like three decades ago rather than three years.
Real Madrid’s coach Jose Mourinho (L) gestures next to Barcelona’s coach Pep Guardiola. – Reuters
Compare the mentality of Mourinho to Claudio Ranieri, who has won the Premier League at Leicester by speaking about the “we” and deflecting any personal praise onto his players, who would run through walls for the Italian. With Mourinho, it is all about the “I”, the sense that he is out to get what he can for himself.
While Manchester City have appointed a public relations dream in PepGuardiola, United have landed second prize in Mourinho. By some distance. And in every sense: in terms of style, substance and the damage he could inflict upon the brand that is Manchester United.
He has a record of winning, but at what cost? Chelsea and Real Madrid did not care about a man who would tarnish their reputation – neither institution inspires even the smallest iota of love from any but their own fans, therefore they had nothing to protect. The same cannot be said about a genuine Goliath like United, a club Mourinho admires for its “mystique and romance”.
Or rather, it used not to be said about United, who have suddenly joined the group of clubs for whom winning at any cost is all that matters. United’s decision to appoint Mourinho says more about the club’s desperation than its ambition.