With time running out on Sir Alex Ferguson’s career, panic sets in whenever I start to think about the reality of this. Until very recently, there have been no genuine candidates for the job, as far as I’ve been concerned. Whilst when one of our players looks set to retire and move on you find it relatively easy to pinpoint the perfect replacement, there had been no name of manager that seemed to perfectly fit the space about to be left by Ferguson. That is partly to do with the fact he’s been here for over two decades and won more than any other manager has in this country, but also because of a lack of options.
Guus Hiddink, Marcello Lippi, Fabio Capello and the like have been banded about for years. More recently, Jose Mourinho is another name to be added to the list. Of every manager seriously linked with this job, what will essentially become the biggest football appointment of all time, Mourinho is the last man I want at this club and I cannot understand why people feel differently.
You were conned. If you bought in to TSO nonsense then you were duped in to believing in a fantasy.
At Porto, Mourinho took over a side who had finished 2nd for the two seasons before he took over, and first for the five years before that. In fact, they were just one point away from Boavista the season before Mourinho became Porto manager. Mourinho turned the team that were second best in Portugal by one point to the best team in Portugal, following the dramatic decline of Boavista, who finished 10th in Mourinho’s first season.
The team was already there for Mourinho. Carvalho, Deco, Costa and the like were players he inherited. He told them they were going to win the league in the following season and they did.
The next season, the Champions League became a notch on Mourinho’s footballing bedpost. Thanks to a weak grouping, they made it past the Group Stages with ease, despite only winning half their matches. They knocked out United thanks to the linesman wrongly ruling out Paul Scholes’ goal, despite several players playing him on-side, which would have put us 2-0 up before half time. They beat Lyon 2-0 at home, lucky enough to face the French side without their star man, Juninho, who was injured. Then they played Deportivo in the semis, a team who any top side would jump for joy at being drawn to play in the Champions League semi-final. After drawing 0-0 with Deportivo at home, they beat the Spanish side 1-0 away, thanks to a penalty and their opposition playing with ten men for the last 20 minutes of the match. Then they beat the third best side in France that season, Monaco, in the final.
Winning the European Cup under any circumstance is an achievement, but there’s no denying Mourinho had probably the easiest, luckiest route to lifting the trophy since the competition was rebranded as the Champions League back in 1992. The only top team they faced was United, who they beat thanks to an absolutely dreadful decision.
Regardless, Chelsea took him on and again he inherited the second best team in the league. Ranieri had secured the deals for the likes of Petr Cech and Arjen Robben, as well as already bringing in Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Claude Makelele, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Damien Duff and William Gallas, to name a few. We must also remember that John Terry made the jump from youth team player to first team starter under Ranieri, who integrated the now Chelsea captain in to the first XI during his first season in charge of the club, when Terry was just 20-years-old. So good was this squad, they had just reached the Champions League semi-final.
Ranieri, whilst too fond of tinkering to make it at Chelsea long-term with Roman Abramovich around, built Mourinho a title winning squad. Mourinho simply took hold of the reigns, told the players they were the best, limited their creative flair as much as possible, stressing the importance of a defence, and Ranieri’s players won the league. It was also fairly nice timing for Mourinho that United, Arsenal and Liverpool were all incapable of mounting a title challenge that season.
But as time went by, Mourinho sold off Ranieri’s squad, replacing the talent with the likes of Ben Haim, Sidwell, Boulahrouz, Malouda, Wright-Phillips, Kalou, Pizarro and Ferreira. In his last full season with the club, they finished eight points behind United on the day the title was won, despite bringing in one of the best defenders, one of the best midfielders and one of the best strikers in the World in the summer, to add to what was already a title winning side. In contrast, United bought just Michael Carrick.
Whilst all managers are guilty of signing the odd poor player every now and again (Think Kleberson, Djemba-Djemba, Taibi…), Mourinho signed an awful lot of them in an awfully short space of time. In fact, all his best signings were players every top club in Europe were interested in, but Chelsea could afford to outprice them. Didier Drogba, Michael Essien and Michael Ballack, for example, were hardly unearthed gems no-one had heard of before. The only players Mourinho signed who were unknown all turned out to be crap: add to the list above Kezman, Maniche, Jarosik, Tiago.
Whilst defensively brilliant at their best, conceding just 15 goals in 04-05, their attacking game was not good enough, scoring just 72 goals, an average of 1.9 goals per game. Whilst scoring almost two goals per game will certainly help your title bid, it doesn’t quite match up to the style of football Manchester United demand. When you consider just five years before Mourinho showed up, United scored 97 league goals in a season, an average of 2.6 goals per game.
Mourinho doesn’t make great teams, he just keeps great teams afloat. He doesn’t do it through his ability to rebuild teams, as Ferguson has time and again, rather by getting the most out of the great players he’s been given, he doesn’t do it through his willingness to play thrilling football, rather by effectively controlling the game and waiting for the opportunity to pounce. So far, we have no proof of anything to the contrary, as it is what has happened at Porto, where he spent two years, and Chelsea, where he spent three years. He now manages Inter, who have won the title for three years on the trot before his appointment.
Bryan Robson has made the point I make every time someone tells me Mourinho should be the man to take over from Ferguson. They confuse his big personality and bigger ego with raw talent and managerial excellence. He is not good enough for Manchester United, at least, he hasn’t proved it in the eight years he’s spent managing, so Robson wants a man who can play the United way and adhere to the footballing style put in place by Sir Matt Busby.
“I just don’t agree when I hear people say that Jose is the perfect boss to take over from Sir Alex,” said Robson. “Jose is a great coach and the things he achieved at Porto and Chelsea mean he commands huge respect. But Manchester United aren’t just a club who only want to win things. The fans demand that success is achieved by playing the Manchester United way. Attacking football is a vital part of the club’s heritage. For me, Jose Mourinho is too cautious in his approach to the game to be manager of Manchester United. The important thing for any manager who follows in Sir Alex Ferguson’s footsteps is to recognise the traditions of Manchester United and maintain them.”
If Ferguson passed on this great squad to Mourinho, we would probably be fairly successful for a couple of seasons. His man-managements of the superstars, making them believe they are even better than they think they are, would certainly see us brimming with confidence that could win us a trophy or two. But when these players started moving on, getting too old, not fitting in, who would Mourinho buy to replace them?
Our fans are already pissed off enough with the Glazer takeover and rising ticket prices, can you imagine if on top of what we already have to bear, our entertaining football got taken away from us too? Brilliant, we might go three years without losing at home, but we would be forced to endure controlled, dull, defensive, yet effective football. I’d take the 17 wins, 1 draw and 1 defeat at home of last season over the 12 wins, 7 draws and 0 defeats Mourinho managed at home in his last season.
Who’s the man for the job? At the moment and for the first time ever, I have what I would regard a good shout for an answer. Martin O’Neil. He’s been linked with the jobs for years, so I realise I’m not bringing about a massive revelation here, however what he did at Celtic and Leicester wasn’t enough. What he’s doing with Aston Villa though is really starting to make him stand out from everyone else though.
Villa finished 16th the season before he took over, 11th in his first season (8 points better off), 6th in his second season (10 points better than the season before) and now they’re third, three points behind Liverpool, two points ahead of Chelsea, and seven points ahead of Arsenal. They’ve scored just one less goal than United this season and the team revolves around an English core. This is the kind of manager we’re looking for.
Mourinho, who was at United’s 1-0 win over West Ham yesterday, can fuck off. I couldn’t care less how amusing he is in the press conference, how passionately he may celebrate an important goal, what kind of inspiring team talks he gives to his players. Essentially, he’s a lucky bastard who managed to pull the wool over people’s eyes in to thinking he’s something better than he actually is. Whilst able to inspire great confidence in his team, he has shown little proof he’s able to build a great team himself or play anything resembling entertaining football. We need much more than a big personality. His last season in the Premiership should have taught us that he’s nowhere near as special as he’d like to be and with all the money in the World he couldn’t put together a team that played exciting football. After dismantling Ranieri’s squad, he was clueless and trailed United all season. Chelsea’s first XI is made up of players in their 30s because Mourinho couldn’t bring in the right replacements, and that is why Chelsea are now battling to keep their Champions League place for next season. We would be in exactly the same situation if he was our manager when the players in their late 20s/early 30s, Vidic, Evra, Rio, Giggs, Scholes, Brown, Berbatov etc. all need replacing.
O’Neil might not be the future of Manchester United, who knows, but Jose Mourinho certainly isn’t.