Here we are with another month and another TOP FIVE. This one hits in the miserable aftermath of United’s unseemly 3-0 drubbing at White Hart Lane. That game featured the kind of spectacular managerial implosion which makes you think Louis van Gaal might be trying to get himself sacked because he doesn’t fancy another year of this nonsense.
“Surely, making the bus late will get me sacked?” “No, sorry Louis, London traffic is a good excuse”. “What if I put Juan Mata up against Danny Rose?” “No, sorry Louis, Mata has done well from the right at least three out of the 30 times you’ve played him there, too bad.”
“Okay, I’ll play Ashley Young at centre forward, but YOU MADE ME DO THIS.”
Anyway, the long and the short of it is that obviously Van Gaal should be sacked. Given that City have hired Pep Guardiola, every force of narrative logic would suggest we should appoint out of work Jose Mourinho but anyone who’s kept half an eye on football for the last decade or so knows that he comes at a cost. Having written for and against Mourinho rocking up at Old Trafford within the last six months, I’m definitely confused.
Let’s take a look at the TOP FIVE reasons why he should and shouldn’t get the gig.
The TOP FIVE Categories in the Anyone-But-Jose Argument
He won’t play the kids
Of any time in recent memory, now is surely the worst moment to employ Mourinho. Van Gaal has thrown a bunch of kids into the deep end of the pool but three in particular have proven strong swimmers. Marcus Rashford, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Timothy Fosu-Mensah should all definitely be part of the first-team picture. But, of course, they will make plenty of mistakes. Mourinho has never proven himself a manager who will exercise the necessary patience to bring through young players and we really need one who is.
He causes trouble
Sometimes the trouble Mourinho causes is amusing, the kind of mild diversion which makes football an entertaining soap opera.
Sometimes, though, it is not funny at all, and two incidents in particular stand out. One, the eye gouging of Tito Vilanova was petulant in the extreme, the kind of thing for which there can surely be no place in the repertoire of the United manager.
The second, the apparent complete disrespect for the professional work of Dr Eva Caneiro caused—or at least appeared from the outside to cause—significant ructions in Chelsea’s dressing room. This could be very damaging to United.
His particular brand of anti-football
For more on this, see Jonathan Wilson’s superb Guardian article from December last year. The suggestion is that when his teams have played better stuff it has been in spite of his fundamental philosophical approach rather than because of it.
Things never end well
Real Madrid ended in catastrophe. He might have won a league title at Chelsea but that was followed by spectacular implosion. Inter have been a walking disaster since he left. Some of that might be coincidence, but on the other hand could it be something about Mourinho’s presence which means teams are left weakened once he goes. Admittedly, Real Madrid did win the Champions League title shortly after he left, but the dressing room factions left by his time in charge were clearly still in play this summer, and indeed United became tangentially involved in those thanks to Sergio Ramos’ contract negotiations.
He might be on the wane
It could be that Mourinho has peaked, and his particular brand of firebrand motivational relationship building has been damaged by the impact on his reputation of a couple of jobs gone wrong.
He has, however, continued to win—the league title he won with Chelsea was their first for five years, and though he won only one Liga title with Madrid, he did so in the face of one of history’s best-ever teams.
Which brings us nicely to…
The Top Five Reasons to hire Jose Mourinho as Manager of Manchester United
He’s a very good football manager of 21st century elite clubs
This has been a bit of a problem area for us of late. It was always pretty obvious that David Moyes’ personal characteristics and professional tendencies would make him a bad match for the job. Van Gaal’s failure has been a little more surprising, though there were cautionary voices among the celebrations when he arrived. “His time has passed” was the general gist.
Unlike in Mourinho’s case, where that is far from proven, it sort of is for Van Gaal. We have seen him flounder. Jose will likely be a good deal less flounder-y.
Seriously, he wins stuff all the time.
His record is ridiculous. Eight domestic league titles since his first with Porto in 2002/03. Eight in 13 years, in spite of taking on some pretty serious challenges during that time. Add to that a couple of Champions Leagues—and, Fergie style, Champions Leagues during seasons in which he also won the league—a crucial distinction from, say, Carlo Ancelotti—and it is very impressive stuff.
A short-term fix might actually help in the long-term
The tectonic plates of Premier League football are shifting. If you don’t support United, this is probably a “good thing.” From Sir Alex’s first win onward, the competition has, essentially, been between us and a series of competitors, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, City—rarely more than one at a time.
This season there is a very good chances Spurs and Leicester will finish as the top two, a profound and seismic shift away from the “Big Four” paradigm. Such shifting ground offers opportunity and threat for established elite clubs. The threat is that United will not be able to get back to the top in a timely enough fashion to prevent the cycle of descent from properly kicking in.
The opportunity is that a kick start of energy, a huge concentration of effort and resources executed at the right time could get things moving in the right direction again, allowing the longer-term planning to take place on safer ground.
Of course, this would rely on good planning from those in charge, something which has been hard to come by.
He has suggested he will work with the club’s mores
“Love letter” may have been an undermining phrase, but potential significance of the story that Mourinho has reached out to United and made it clear that he would be prepared to change his ways for a crack at the job is huge.
It might be a big ask to get him to change, but if he cares enough to try, that must count for something.
It is actually sensible to counter Guardiola’s arrival at City
It has been argued that United should not react to Guardiola’s arrival by changing their plans. “If Mourinho wasn’t coming before, he shouldn’t now” in essence.
However, that ignores the truth of the matter, which is that in all likelihood, Guardiola’s arrival at City will change their status in the eyes of some of the footballing world. They are presumably an even more attractive prospect for potential signings now—albeit they have problems of their own.
For United to fight fire with fire is actually quite a smart response. Mourinho’s name surely carries weight with players. It is undeniable that the P.R. and imaging around his arrival would work in the club’s favour, at least initially.
None of this is ideal, but United need dramatic action, one way or another. If Mourinho’s going to come, at least we can all acknowledge the potential good and bad in his arrival.