Has Mourinho burned his bridges in the Premier League?

A few weeks ago, Chelsea reacted to their awful start of the season by firing Jose Mourinho. While it was not a huge surprise to see Mourinho lose his job; it had become pretty clear that although he retained support from the Chelsea fans, the players and the Chelsea hierarchy no longer shared that support.

Mourinho’s firing has led to something of a managerial scramble amongst the elite teams of the Premier League. Mourinho was immediately linked with Manchester United, who, as I’m writing this, look like persisting with Louis van Gaal despite a winless run of eight games and substantial fan pressure to fire him.

Add to the mix the announcement that Pep Guardiola will leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season, with Carlo Ancelotti taking over at Bayern; it makes for an intriguing situation where it looks as though Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City are all going to be competing for Guardiola’s services, which inevitably will leave two of those clubs- assuming Guardiola comes to the Premier League- searching for a plan B.

The three clubs mentioned there would all jump at the chance to appoint Guardiola as manager, and rumours have it that Manchester City are the team most likely to have him as manager next season.

What’s really interesting though, is that although all three of those teams are looking for an elite manager/coach, it’s possible that none of those clubs will turn to Jose Mourinho if they can’t get Guardiola.

Despite Chelsea’s struggles this season, the fact remains that Mourinho is one of the elite coaches in world football. There can be no questioning of his abilities as a manager. But, clubs are now asking whether the success Mourinho brings on the field is worth all of the turmoil he brings to the clubs he manages off of it. 

After his first spell in charge of Chelsea ended acrimoniously, Mourinho had an image problem in English football. After his second spell as Chelsea manager has ended with even more discord, Mourinho’s image in England has never been worse.

This season alone Mourinho has publicly blamed just about everyone he can think of for the misfortunes his team has suffered. He started the season with a completely pointless powerplay by criticising, then demoting team doctor Eva Carniero (who is now suing him) for what amounted to her doing her job.  As the season went on, the list of people who he believes are against him expanded to include referees, ballboys and finally, his own players.

The one thing Mourinho always had in his favour was the belief that he was the ultimate player’s manager. That no matter what was happening off the field he was still able to inspire his players. But, as it seems that some of Chelsea’s stars no longer wished to perform for him, which is what happened in Real Madrid, that reputation as a great man-manager is also in tatters.

Unless something dramatic changes at Chelsea, it seems unthinkable that he’ll return there as manager in the future.

A few seasons ago, Mourinho was planning his exit strategy from Real Madrid. There were several feasible options for Mourinho in England. Chelsea were looking for a new manager, as were Manchester City. But, according to Spanish journalist Diego Torres’ book about Mourinho’s time in charge of Real Madrid, it was another English club that was Mourinho’s first choice.

According to Torres, Mourinho had his heart set on succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson as manager of Manchester United. He’d been buttering Ferguson up, to the point of arse-kissing; and believed that he was by far the best candidate to replace Ferguson.

So it came as a great shock when it was announced that David Moyes was to succeed Ferguson at Manchester United. Such a shock in fact that Torres claims a bewildered Mourinho was constantly calling his agents up in tears as he tried to get his head around that decision.

As it transpired, it seems that Mourinho thought more of his relationship with Ferguson than Ferguson did, and that Sir Bobby Charlton, one of the all-time greats of English football and Manchester Untied, and a man who has considerable influence, didn’t like the idea of someone with the character of Mourinho managing Manchester United.

Ok, so Manchester United believed that Mourinho wasn’t the man for them then, but what about now?

I’m sure you know what’s happened to Manchester United over the past three seasons since Ferguson’s retirement. Moyes wasn’t able to win over the fans and squad, and didn’t even manage to last one season. United then turned to Louis Van Gaal, who has done a decent job in steadying the ship, but despite Manchester United not being too far off the top of the table, isn’t popular because of the dour football his teams play.

Mourinho would definitely be popular with the Manchester United fans. In fact, Mourinho merchandise can already be bought around Old Trafford.

Those fans have been used to seeing their team win competitions, so the past few years have been something of a shock for them. So the appointment of a serial winner like Mourinho would go down very well.

However, as with a few years ago, the Manchester United board may not agree that Mourinho is the best man for the job.

The plan for Manchester United when Van Gaal was appointed was that he would be in charge for a few seasons, then his assistant, Manchester United stalwart Ryan Giggs, would be promoted to the manager’s job. That still seems to be the case.  

Similarly, whereas Manchester City a few years ago would have loved to have secured Mourinho as manager, I’m not so sure they would do now.

Things have been going well for Manchester City on the pitch for the past few seasons under Manuel Pellegrini, but City are yet to make the breakthrough to be regarded as one of the world’s elite clubs, which is what they want, and the belief is that a truly elite coach will help them get there.

Mourinho is an elite coach and Mourinho and Manchester City would have been a perfect match a few years ago, but whereas Mourinho has stayed the same, City have changed the way they go about things.

City have taken some big strides, on and off the pitch, to become a more stable club with a long-term vision and becoming less reliant on the riches of their owners. While they are still prepared to pay large transfer fees for players, they mostly only do so now for younger players, and they have also opened one of the UK’s best youth academies.

What City want is a coach who can not only bring success and take them to the next level, but can fit into the new club ethos of trusting in young players and building a legacy for the club. Guardiola ticks all of those boxes.

Mourinho, on the other hand, does not. He is seen as a short-termist, a man who sticks around only for a few seasons, whose teams fly high then crash and burn. He is seen as someone who would rather bring in a veteran, proven player than play a younger player.

It looks likely that by the start of next season that Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea will all have changed manager in the summer. It’s also looking increasingly likely that none of those new managers will be Jose Mourinho.  

Unless Arsenal change managers, which seems unlikely, or someone tempts Mauricio Pochettino, who is impressing at Spurs, there doesn’t seem to be a natural fit for Mourinho in the Premier League at present, and unless something changes off the field at many of those clubs, there may not be a place for him in the Premier League in the future.