When the final chapter of the long and distinguished managerial career of Jose Mourinho is finally written, a important footnote will be the date of 17th of December 2015. For that was the day that the Portuguese was sacked by a club that meant a great deal to him. Just seven months prior, Mourinho had won his third Premier League title with Chelsea, and his second coming with the Blues was a turning into a fairytale.
However, that noteworthy success was not enough for the powers-that-be, and it was to be another unsatisfactory end to life at West London. There were numerous stories of player dissatisfaction, and this had transferred onto the pitch where Chelsea had lost nine of 16 league fixtures in the 2015/16 season.
A Watered-Down Mourinho
To describe Mourinho in simple terms is to say he is a individual who breeds self confidence — an attribute that can work both ways for someone in his position.There is a saying in sport that a team is a reflection of their manager. The man in charge will look to build an aura around the themselves where they believe they are indestructible, and that level of confidence (some may call it arrogance) then feeds through to the individual players, creating to a formidable team.
Mourinho made an artform of that during his stints at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid. His players won every ball like it was their last, and would seemingly run through brick walls for the man on the touchline. By contrast, however, when things begin to unravel for Mourinho, they unravel very quickly.
After that fateful sacking at the Blues, Mourinho has looked a long way from the man who was the fresh-faced media darling when he first came to England. When he was appointed Manchester United manager at the start of the 2016/7 season, you could almost sense the relief from the Red Devil fanbase. The dire days of the David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal reign had finally come to an end, and they were replaced by a man who they would have hoped could take them to the heady heights once again. However, by now they must surely underwhelmed by this “watered down” version of Mourinho.
Instead of the genuine excitement you would expect someone to have in managing one of the household names of world football, what we regularly from Mourinho is an individual with a glum demeanor and a cynical and self-loathing attitude.
Football managers work in different ways to the common man or woman. Their mind is always ticking, looking to get their message across in the most subtle fashion. It is highly common to see a manager make a coded dig at the ownership in a press conference if they missed out on a particular signing — and when things are not going to plan on the pitch. Mourinho, however, is currently in no position to point in the direction of the club’s American owners. Indeed, to the contrary, Mourinho has brought back the big spending ways to the club with the marquee names of Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, and Alexis Sanchez, with all three arriving at Old Trafford under the tenure of the 55-year-old.
The Wrong Message
For all intents and purposes, it appears that Mourinho is yet to get over that sacking just over two years ago. He appears to want to make a point of defending his credentials after every game. While he was more than willing to provoke rival managers in his heyday, (take your pick from Arsene Wenger, Rafa Benitez, Frank Rijkaard, Pep Guardiola etc), nowadays the only manager he publicly wants to engage in a feud is Chelsea’s Antonio Conte.
His 12 minute rant before the FA Cup 6th round tie against Brighton bordered on the bizarre, while his reaction to the loss in the Champions League was completely disingenuous to all parties. It certainly was not the message that Man United fans would have wanted to hear after a crushing defeat.
While it has been high on the list of talking points this season, the debate about the style of Mourinho’s football should not be the sole issue. We know that his style is certainly not the aesthetically pleasing football that Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp regularly produce, nor will it ever be. In terms of overall results, he currently has the team sitting in second place — an improvement on last season — as well as being in the last four of the FA Cup. That said, he certainly did not come to the club to finish miles behind their city rivals.
To get things back on track, he needs to forget about the things he cannot control, and all the various conspiracies that may creep into his mind, and get back to the job at hand on the pitch. The next couple of seasons will tell us whether Mourinho still has that edge to remain at the top of the managerial game or whether the man who dubbed himself “the special one” has reached his sell-by-date.