The day after Jose Mourinho was sacked by Chelsea, before we had lost to Norwich, I wrote 600 or so words on the precisely contrary headline to the above for my regular gig over at Bleacher Report.
For those wanting to save 10 minutes and just read this article instead, my three primary arguments against United signing up Jose to replace Louis van Gaal are, in essence:
– Tendency towards miserable anti-football
– Doesn’t play kids or think long-term
– Is loads of aggro off the pitch.
Fundamentally, all of those are sound arguments.
However, as with nearly all matters relating to football opinion, the truth is not black and white. There are counter arguments which can be very convincing in favour of bringing Mourinho to Manchester. Given how torn I feel on the subject, here are the reasons why actually it might be a good idea after all.
He is a winner
This is the first, most obvious, most evident and most crucial argument. Jose Mourinho wins stuff. Like, all the time. Since rocking up at Porto in 2002, he has won the domestic league in which he was managing in eight of the intervening 13 seasons. Before his return to Chelsea, he had only lost the league to Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.
It is a staggering record of success. The sheer relentless winningness of the man cannot be ignored. He has also chucked a couple of Champions Leagues in there for good measure, although—like Sir Alex—he would probably have wanted more. They were nonetheless extremely notable achievements. Neither Inter nor Porto have won Europe’s big one since the rebrand except under Mourinho. Porto’s achievement was particularly remarkable given their relative standing in European football’s pantheon at the time.
Last season he won the title with a Chelsea side who had not done so for five years. It is no wonder the Chelsea fans rounded on their previously underperforming players as they romped to a comfortable win against Sunderland, Mourinho brought them success the first time around and then came back to do it all over again.
He is a match for the size of the job
Mourinho would have been the absolutely perfect candidate when Fergie left. He would have been respectful to Sir Alex—as he has been for many years—while at the same time making it clear that he was big enough to step into his shoes. It would have been a very easy line to sell given his aforementioned record.
It is a slightly different situation now, especially since this season’s Chelsea collapse has taken a little of the shine off Mourinho, but nonetheless he will certainly be able to walk into Carrington, or the press conference room, or the Old Trafford dugout with the tangible aura that he belongs at a club of United’s size. Van Gaal, incidentally, possessed the same quality when he first arrived, and while that seems a distant memory now, it nonetheless came as a breath of fresh air after David Moyes’ relentless attempts to shrink the club around him.
Mourinho’s CV and general demeanour make him well matched for the size of the task.
His football isn’t actually always bad
Okay, so sometimes it’s a bit grim. In fact, he was essentially the first manager to park the bus against Van Gaal, in the 1-0 win that put an end to unlikely title dreams last season. Every manager in the league sadly learned that was the way to beat Van Gaal’s nascent United and the vastly experienced manager was bafflingly unable to deal with it.
Mourinho though has overseen a few nice periods of football. There was his first 18 months or so at Real Madrid where they scored, you know, all the goals. All of them. I’m unsure on the exact numbers but I think it was something like a million or so. Maybe a bit less than that, but it was a lot.
Then there was the first half of last season at Chelsea. I know this is antithetical as a United fan, but they were sort of a joy to watch. Who knows what would happen at United. Presumably at least in the first instance he would be pretty defensive minded given the limitations of the squad, but after a couple of transfer windows, and being reunited with Cristiano Ronaldo (ahem) it might liven up a bit.
The kids might be alright?
Okay, this is real straw clutching, but back during the Moyes era, Mourinho said of Adnan Januzaj, “He is a fantastic player. He is not 18 – he is 25. He is so mature and comfortable. A very good and important player.” Maybe, just maybe he would be prepared to gamble on some of United’s more talented youngsters, Andreas Pereira in particular, especially if it was made clear to him that was a condition of the job. We are unlikely to see debutants in the numbers Van Gaal was prepared to bring through, but the odd one could find their way through Mourinho’s historic reticence.
Did I mention he’s a winner
Essentially, this is the be all and end all of Mourinho. The first and last point here are the same because it is THE argument for bringing him on board. It may well be worth the off-pitch distractions to once again sit United at the top table. If Pep Guardiola is definitely on his way to City, with Jurgen Klopp getting his work at Liverpool underway, United need a manager to compete in the short term while they work out what to do with the medium term. Mourinho can most certainly do that.
It feels like something of a Faustian pact, but it might just be one worth making.