It can’t be overstated just how much Jose Mourinho was revered here in England. He was a breath of fresh air when he came. He was a young, brash, dynamic coach who came to the UK tooting his own horn, and then proceeded to back it all up with success on the pitch.
Chelsea fans adored him and most other fans would grudgingly recognise his brilliance, while wishing their club had him, or at least a coach just like him.
For years, Mourinho was so highly thought of that coaches and managers showing promise or doing a good job somewhere weren’t just compared to him, they were named after him. For example, when Sean Dyche got an unlikely promotion with Burnley five years ago, he got the nickname ‘the Ginger Mourinho’.
Nobody thought that was weird. Mourinho was the benchmark for all managers. He was the gold standard. He was synonymous with success, so it naturally followed that any other coach that had a bit of success must have had a bit of Mourinho about him.
And, it always seemed that Mourinho loved English football as much as it loved him.
But not anymore. Mourinho was fired by Manchester United on Tuesday following a tumultuous time. On both occasions he was fired by Chelsea, it seemed obvious he’d be back in English football. But today, the opposite seems true. It seems that English football may be finished with Mourinho.
Jose Mourinho and Manchester United seemed like a match made in heaven. Mourinho had apparently been desperate to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson, and, according to Diego Torres in his book, was devastated when Manchester United chose David Moyes ahead of him.
Following Moyes and Louis van Gaal’s time in charge that failed to restore Manchester United as the foremost club in England, and Mourinho’s availability after being fired by Chelsea, it was finally Mourinho’s time.
In some ways he’s fulfilled his brief. He did win trophies during his time as United manager, winning the league cup and Europa League in his first season. He did get Manchester United back into the top four, finishing second last season, albeit 19 points behind champions Manchester City.
But in many other ways his time in charge has been a dismal failure. And it’s shattered a lot of the mythos that Mourinho has built up around himself.
Manchester United knew what they were signing up for when they got Mourinho. Mourinho’s reputation went before him. He’s a disruptor; he’ll blaze into a club like a whirlwind, cause chaos, bring success and then the wheels will come off.
United knew that they would have to bend to his whims, to back him in the transfer market with millions and to put up with all the negative baggage that comes with him, but they did all that with the knowledge that while it would likely be a bumpy ride, he would likely bring them success.
But, what United had either failed to see or turned a blind eye to, was that somewhere along the way Mourinho had changed, and not for the better.
When he first came to the UK, Mourinho’s teams reflected the man himself. They were cocky, swaggering sides, that went onto the pitch with an aura of invincibility. They were teams that knew they could beat anyone.
But as the years have gone on, Mourinho has changed, and his teams reflect the new side to his personality. Mourinho’s own identity seems to be tied up with his reputation as a winner to the point where he is now afraid to lose. And that’s how his teams play. They play afraid.
Mourinho’s reputation as a tactician has been shot down, because all he does now is sets his teams up not to lose and to hope the opposition make a mistake. That’s just not good enough for a team like Manchester United, who were known for playing on the front foot.
Even when his Manchester United team was winning games, they were doing so playing such turgid, joyless football that nobody, Mourinho included, could take any sort of pleasure from it.
His reputation as someone who can build a team has been shot down. For all his many, many complaints about not backed in the transfer market by Manchester United, the facts don’t bear this out. According to transfermarkt Mourinho spent nearly £420m in his time in charge. And United don’t have a great deal to show for that. Several of his signings have washed out already, some of the others had fallen completely out of favour and several others have been huge disappointments. The new manager will have to spend to rebuild that team again.
His reputation as a coach has been shattered. Barely any Manchester United players improved while he was there. Most have gone the other way, regressing or failing to produce while he’s been there, only to blossom once they’ve got away from him.
Paul Pogba is a perfect example. He’s one of the best midfielders in the world; but has looked a shadow of himself while playing for United. However, at the World Cup, and away from Mourinho, he flourished and was superb. Similarly, Mourinho failed to get the best out of the very talented Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw.
Mourinho’s reputation as a motivator has been obliterated by his time at United. He calls his players out in public all the time. He doesn’t so much throw his players under the bus, as throw them in the road and then drives over them with the bus. He pretty much gave up on the season before it started because he didn’t believe that United had signed the players he wanted, not only being resigned to finishing behind Manchester City again, but also Liverpool, who United had finished ahead of last season.
Mourinho’s departure also reflects badly on Manchester United. The comparison with Liverpool in the early 90s seems to be a good one. Like Liverpool, Manchester United had gotten complacent during a period of sustained success and are floundering to get to grips with a game that’s left them behind.
It seems clear that the club is still struggling to get to grips with life Post Sir Alex Ferguson. They still seem stuck in the past and unaware that the game has moved on around them. They still don’t have a sporting director, who would be responsible for overseeing the vision of the club (maybe they don’t even have one of those), and would make it that the club wouldn’t live and die by the person who oversees the team.
Today it was announced that former player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will take charge in an interim role for the rest of the season. This suggests that Manchester United know who they want to be their next manager, and that person isn’t available now, with reports saying that Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is the man they want.
As for Mourinho, It’s difficult to see any other English team being prepared to take him on. I’d be shocked if Mourinho would be willing to change his M.O. and would go to any club where he wasn’t given a lot of money, and I don’t think that any of the English clubs that could afford to keep Mourinho happy would want him. After all, if you’re no longer guaranteed success with Mourinho, why would you want to take on his baggage?