Mourinho Not the Special One for Manchester United

8 Feb

Ollie Phelan


For years, Manchester United fans have sat on their high-horses, looking down at those petty clubs who change managers as regularly as Katie Price changes husbands. Even Arsenal occasionally suffer doubts over the long-standing Arsene Wenger. Yet, with Sir Alex Ferguson entering his 70th year, how much longer can these fans stay perched up high? To steal one of Ferguson’s most famous quotes, they could be knocked off their perch in the near future. As a line in French film La Haine goes, it isn’t the fall that matters, but the landing. What matters is which manager is chosen to replace arguably the greatest in footballing history.

Although little has been said of potential candidates, David Gill & co have dropped certain hints about the criteria they will be using to choose Sir Alex’s replacement. David Gill told MUTV: “The new manager needs to understand those values (of the club’s history) and the vision for the club and must buy into that. By that, I mean attractive football using young players […] actually developing our own players.” This would seemingly drastically reduce the list of proposed candidates. In particular, if Gill’s aim is followed through in reality, a high profile bookies favourite would fall, that being the charismatic Portuguese, José Mourinho.

Mourinho placed himself in the running for any big managerial role in England when he declared that he wanted to return to the Premier League, for an extended spell, when his Spanish adventure with Madrid had finished. The oft discussed destination for the Portuguese is as Ferguson’s successor at Manchester United. This would seemingly fill the gaping hole that will soon appear in the great Manchester club. However, Mourinho’s footballing philosophy was often criticised when he managed Chelsea for being too defence-orientated; where he would often substitute attacking flair for an extra heavy man in midfield. Despite a growing tendency for attacking and attractive football at Real Madrid, with Mourinho there is always that instinct to revert to the packed midfield and solid defence to grind out a result. Obviously, this goes against Gill’s club ‘values’.

Another black mark against Mourinho is his seeming lack of trust and belief in youngsters. At Madrid, promising young talents, such as Sergio Canales and Pedro Léon, have floundered as Mourinho has preferred to bring in established players for big fees. This was a tactic we saw before at both Chelsea and Inter, and we are seeing the after effects of this today. Although the transfer tactic brought a brief spell of success in the short term, it was very inhibiting in the long term. Both Inter and Chelsea have suffered hangovers from Mourinho’s reign in recent seasons, with the blame being laid by many, at the door of the large group of aging players, such as Frank Lampard and Diego Milito. This transfer technique also demands a vast pot of gold, into which Mourinho can delve freely, allowing him to feast on the delectable players available in the market. However, with a net spend of just over £55 million in the past 5 years at Old Trafford; this available money source doesn’t appear likely.

Question marks have been raised in the past over Mourinho’s attitude and personality (i.e. ego). Although his personality can be a potent tool, it may not be suitable for United. With Mourinho it is all about himself; we have seen this ever since his infamous opening press-conference at Chelsea. Managers like Ferguson, Wenger and Guardiola respect their clubs, understand its principles and philosophies and are extremely passionate about managing them. With Mourinho, some believe his aims are more personal; selfish even.  It seems that ‘the Special One’ is simply intent on building the greatest CV football management has seen. Like a honey-bee, with the choice of many succulent flowers, he hops between many clubs, with apparently little loyalty. Manchester United need a long-term and committed manager, yet there is a risk that Mourinho could simply use the club as a stepping stone to managerial greatness. Of course, many believe he has a soft spot for United, with Mourinho himself often referring to Sir Alex Ferguson as ‘the Boss’, suggesting he would possibly treat the Red Devils with a little more respect than he is usually accustomed. But as the saying goes, a leopard cannot change his spots.

Of course, there are many Manchester United fans who would bask in the appointment of the Portuguese. His tactical prowess and man-management skills are plain for all to see. He is the type of manager you would want to see on your touchline during a key match. But what the fans have to ask themselves is; do they want a manager who could possibly transform the whole feel and ethos of Manchester United, built up with such tragedy and painstaking passion and care by Sir Matt Busby and Ferguson? For me, this is too much of a risk to take. A club should always stay true to their heritage, and there are other managers out there who can deliver this. Pep Guardiola, who has guided Barcelona to unprecedented success in recent years, seems ever reluctant to sign a long-term deal and could relish the challenge another club would bring. An old favourite of the Stretford End, Ole Solskjaer, has also achieved stunning results in only his first managerial season, guiding Molde to their first ever Norwegian league title. The baby-faced assassin would love to return to Old Trafford and would definitely continue Ferguson’s legacy, keeping the traditions of the club safe from circling vultures.

It is important that, when the time comes, David Gill follows the traditions of the club and rejects the Portuguese’s ever tempting overtures, in order to keep Manchester United on the course set out by Busby and continued so expertly by Ferguson, and appoints a manager with the class, respect and passion befitting a true Manchester United manager.


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