Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the firm anti-Jose Mourinho approach for several reasons, written about in STATS: More Reasons To Keep Mourinho Away From United, Mourinho Show Continues to name a few.
In summary: 1. Jose Mourinho inherited a great squad at Chelsea (finished 2nd in the league, reached CL semi-finals) yet after spending hundreds of millions on players over several years, left them with a much weaker squad. 2. The football he played with Porto, Chelsea and Inter was dire. Ultra defensive and ultra boring. 3. He had never developed youth. 4. His personality is dreadful. He brings shame to whichever club he is at with his rants. (lying to the world’s media saying he saw Rikjaard enter referee Frisk’s office, before later admitted he never saw such a thing/laying in to young lad Ronaldo over his education and class/claiming that title rivals Roma would pay off their opponents on the last day of the season to fix the title etc.) No class whatsoever. 5. His success has always been with team’s that have their foundation built – Porto finished 2nd by 1 point season before he got the job, Chelsea finished 2nd and reached the semi-finals of Europe, Inter were champions for the previous two seasons. What if United don’t have such a strong foundation when Ferguson finally leaves? 6. He makes his team’s success all about him. Compare the pictures of Inter’s CL win in 2010 to United’s in 2008. Mourinho is at the centre of everything compared to Fergie not even being in sight. 7. Sir Bobby Charlton and Bryan Robson were against his appointment.
Have things changed?
Transfers – Whilst at Chelsea, Mourinho did not do a good enough job in the transfer market. Michael Essien, Ashley Cole and Dider Drogba were his biggest successes, but all of them were obvious transfers who any manager in Europe would have wanted, if they had the money. He didn’t get any bargains and spent a vast amount of money on average or worse players. Khalid Boulharouz (£9m), Shaun Wright-Phillips (£21m), Asier Del Horno (£8m), John Obi Mikel (£16m), Paulo Ferreira (£13.2m). The players he did get at a bargain price were dreadful, like Steve Sidwell, Claudio Pizarro and Tal Ben Haim.
All managers make mistakes when it comes to transfers, Sir Alex included, but it’s been a long time since the dark days of Kleberson (£6.5m) and Djemba-Djemba (£3.5m). The more recent bargains of Evra (£5m), Vidic (£7m), Ji-Sung Park (£4m) etc. put Jose to shame.
Given United’s financial restraints, there’s no way United could afford to blow the money Mourinho did.
However, his transfer record at Inter Milan has painted his abilities to bring in good players at a good price in a better light.
It’s hard to argue with deals like offloading Zlatan Ibrahimovic + £40m for Samuel Eto’o, Wesley Sneijder for £13m, Diego Milito for £20m, Lúcio for £4.5m.
At Real Madrid, a club notorious for throwing money about, he’s secured some more great transfers. Ángel di María for £25m, Pedro León for £8m, Sami Khedira for £12m, Mesut Özil for £13m, Sergio Canales for £4m and David Mateos Ramajo for £300k, which is pretty good going for one summer’s work.
In conclusion, he wasn’t good enough in the transfer market at Chelsea but has gone some way to proving himself in the years since then.
Playing style – At Porto, Chelsea and Inter, the style of football was woeful. Whilst he proved a success at all three clubs, the idea of watching that dross week in week out was pretty unimaginable. We’ve been spoilt in the Fergie years but a club like United shouldn’t have to sacrifice style for success. When you look at the football Roberto Di Matteo has West Brom playing, it’s hard to excuse Mourinho’s preference for dull football at clubs like Chelsea and Inter where he’s had money to spend.
The argument against this, from those in favour of Jose, claimed that he would be expected to play entertaining football at United, that he would have no choice. That’s a fine argument but if Jose had never employed attacking or entertaining tactics, how did anyone know he could be a success this way? Sam Allardyce’s teams play the same, Rafa Benitez’s teams play the same and looking at Mourinho’s managerial experience, his teams played the same too. Managers stick with what they know and Mourinho knew defensive football.
However, with limited reference to Real Madrid, Mourinho is proving that he can change his style and be a success. Of course, we’ll have to wait until the end of the season to see how far it gets him, but on current form, you can’t help but be impressed.
People can argue that it would be hard not to score goals and play well with such a wealth of talent in the team, but he managed to do just that at Chelsea and Inter. Real Madrid, like United, demand style in their play, and Mourinho is meeting that demand.
Real Madrid are currently the only unbeaten team in La Liga, scoring 22 goals in 8 games (an average of 2.75 goals per game) yet still have defensive strength, conceding just 4 goals (an average of 0.5 goals per game).
In Europe, they have won all three games they’ve played, against AC Milan (currently 2nd in Serie A), Ajax and Auxerre, winning 2-0 twice and 1-0.
Youth – Mourinho’s policy always seemed to be to buy established players, at the peak of their career and a wealth of experience under his belt.
This policy has changed since joining Real Madrid, with him opting to buy young players to develop. This is obviously not a Real Madrid way of doing things, so his own preference.
Ángel di María (22), Pedro León (23), Sami Khedira (23), Mesut Özil (22), Sergio Canales (19) and David Mateos Ramajo (23).
Juan Carlos, who has been at the club since he was 16, was given his first team début this season. Like Ferguson at United, Mourinho is using the group stages of the Champions League to introduce players from the youth team.
“It is always good that the coach likes me, I thank him for the opportunity he has given me, and I hope that I can continue,” said Carlos after the game.
Also, with the UEFA rule change insisting a proportion of homegrown players, Mourinho would have no choice but to take our youth policy seriously.
Which things haven’t changed?
Personality – This can’t be reconciled. For me, I don’t like the guy. He is severely lacking in class and is massively self-obsessed. People reckon he comes out with his controversial statements and puts his face in front of the cameras to take pressure off his team but I just don’t buy it. He loves himself and behaves in a way that draws the attention to himself. His behaviour after beating Barcelona in the semis and then Bayern Munich, was his usual ‘look at me’ routine, which I abhor. Was this to deflect pressure off his team? Obviously not. Whilst I think any successful manager deserves praise, he goes out his way to make himself centre of attention and to get people talking about him.
However, if Wayne Rooney has taught us anything, it’s that you don’t have to love everyone at your club. Cristiano Ronaldo taught me a similar lesson a couple of years before. Your most important player might be a total arsehole, he may behave like an idiot off the pitch, he may mess your club about behind the scenes, but their commitment and ability to make your club a success is all important.
The same has to go for the manager in this respect then. It’s not as if Sir Alex is overwhelmingly popular and always behaves in a way that makes us proud.
Mourinho will always be a dickhead, but he may well be our dickhead, and whilst I wouldn’t enjoy seeing him bring our club in to disrepute, it would be fairly amusing to watch him rub all our rivals up the wrong way.
You would also imagine that under the watchful eye of Sir Alex, who will no doubt go on to have some role within the club, his more outrageous remarks would be curbed.
Successful foundation – Real Madrid are the fourth major club Mourinho has taken charge of which already were in a brilliant position. They finished last season with an incredible 96 points, which would have been enough to win any other season comfortably and have one of the best squads in world football.
When Sir Alex retires, we may not be in as good shape as Real Madrid, Inter, Chelsea and Porto were when Mourinho got the job. If we aren’t and he doesn’t have the money to spend, he will be put in to a situation where he is totally unproven. But that is ifs and buts and not a strong enough argument to keep him out of the club.
I’d still prefer someone like Pep Guardiola, who has again been linked with the job in the past week, who has been a great success, employs beautiful football, and is so classy, but I’m happy to concede that Mourinho replacing Ferguson isn’t the disaster I’ve always claimed it would be.
This is obviously a premature reaction, given that we’re only a few weeks in to the season, however in just a short space of time at Real Madrid Mourinho has already started to right the wrongs of his career which I believed made him ill qualified for the United job.
The fact that he is so desperate for the United job obviously adds weight in Mourinho’s favour. For him to recognise what a massive club we are and to have a clause written in to his Real Madrid contract to release him purely to become manager of our club certainly makes it easier to approve his arrival at United.
Aside from all his strengths and failings mentioned above, the overriding and undeniable factor is his ability to make his players believe in themselves. I wouldn’t want a team of players with an attitude like John Terry, who Mourinho enabled to believe in himself a little too much, but to have a team of players who are always looking to be successful, always want to win and always believe in their ability to do that. Sir Alex has created this culture at United and there probably isn’t a better man in the world to continue that on.
I’m not great at changing my mind and even worse at publicly admitting that I’ve changed my mind but his performance at Real Madrid, answering the questions that have been asked of him on this blog, meant the U-Turn in thought was unavoidable. My apologies to the staunch anti-Mourinho brigade who I’ve abandoned…