Over the last 24 years we as United fans have been truly blessed. Sure, he went through some rocky patches at the start, but from the moment Mark Robins scored a goal to save his job in the 1990 FA Cup 3rd round, (now Sir) Alex Ferguson hasn’t looked back, and has guided United to a two-decade period of success unmatched in the history of this or any other club. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and with Sir Alex now 69, it is surely only a matter of time before he feels he’s done everything he can, and unplugs his now famous “hairdryer”.
So who can replace such a giant of modern football management. Just who can take on the pressure of managing the biggest club in world football. In the first of a 5-part series, I examine the contender who would perhaps cause the biggest stir- Jose Mourinho, a man I’m sure you’re all familiar with……
It is hard to believe that it is only seven years ago that the football world stopped and stared as a masterful young manager sprinted down the Old Trafford touchline.
Sir Alex Ferguson looked on in dismay as an unfancied Porto side eliminated his Manchester United from the Champions League, a Porto side which went on to become the Champions of Europe. There was a sense that it was only the beginning for Jose, and so it proved……
“Yes, er, I think, I am the Special One”. With one brilliantly enigmatic statement, Jose Mourinho exploded into English football. He won the title in his first season at Chelsea and retained it in his second. He is a remarkable manager, assured and confident, inspiring and unabashed. A man who has now won titles in England and Italy, where he completed a masterful treble with his Inter Milan side, combining the defensive solidity of Lucio and Cambiasso with the attacking verve of Sneijder, Eto’o and Milito. (A side, may I point out, which has since been ruined by a certain Rafa Benitez- couldn’t resist).
Wherever he has been, Mourinho has shown his tactical nous.
This may be a difficult point for some United fans- Mourinho is, ostensibly, a defensive coach. During his time at Chelsea the most frequent result was 1-0; Mourinho would look to nick an early goal and defend out the match. His Inter Milan team, whilst boasting the attacking talents of Sneijder, Milito, Eto’o and Pandev, showed its’ defensive qualities in a Champions League semi-final with Barcelona, where they rarely crossed the half-way line and just aimed to stifle rather than stampede forward.
Ferreira- Carvalho – Terry- Cole
Robben- Lampard- Duff
At Chelsea Mourinho created a solid spine, with captain John Terry and his central defensive partner Ricardo Carvalho (signed from his own club Porto) protected by Claude Makalele and Michael Essien. This base allowed the attacking talents of Robben, Lampard and Duff to flood forwards, with the spearhead of the Chelsea attack being provided by the strong (yet mobile) and extremely clinical Didier Drogba.
At Inter, Zanetti and Cambiasso provided cover for Samuel and Lucio and provided insurance for Maicon and Chivu to rampage forward from full back. Sneijder was the creative spark for the front three of Eto’o, Milito and Pandev. Although this may seem quite attacking, it was a team with the potential for a defensive masterclass. Eto’o, usually moody, tracked back to defend, while Zanetti and Cambiasso shielded arguably the best centre back in the world Lucio (and his centre back partner Samuel)
Say what you want about his tactics, but Mourinho is a coach who gets results.
Mourinho has a greater European pedigree than most potential SAF replacements; he has won the Champions League at two of his three major club appointments. His first, in 2004, was perhaps the greater achievement, winning it with his unfancied Porto side (albeit against an equally unfancied Monaco side), although the second was as part of an historic treble with Inter Milan. Mourinho’s European pedigree cannot be doubted.
One of the major problems with Mourinho is his seeming inability to stay in a job long term; he was Porto coach for two seasons, Chelsea manager for three and a half years and Inter Milan coach for just two seasons. It is clear that any replacement for SAF would have to be willing to stay long-term, although some would argue that had he not been fired, Mourinho would still be at Stamford Bridge.
Another issue would be Mourinho’s huge wages, whilst United fans may not take to a coach who employs essentially defensive tactics. Also, Mourinho would not be able to spend as much as he spent in previous employments, and does not seem to really nurture young talent, which would be an issue at a club such as United.
People may doubt his attitude, and his tactics, but what cannot be doubted about Mourinho is that he gets results and is a master of mind games, two qualities synonymous with Sir Alex Ferguson.
· Master of mind games.
· Proven at European level.
· Time at Chelsea showed his ability to manage in the English game.
· Gets results when it matters most.
· Inspires players.
· Would have the presence and capability to manage a club with the stature and history of United.
· Used to having almost unlimited spending power which he may not have at United.
· Dies not always nurture young talent, preferring instead to spend masses of money on more experienced players.
· Would command huge wages.
· Defensive tactics may not fulfil United’s philosophy of exciting football.
Next week- David Moyes
Follow Josh on Twitter @UnitedJosh