Jose Mourinho is back in management and back on the charm offensive as he pitched up in Manchester on Friday to sign a three-year contract to become the new manager of Manchester United.
‘Manchester United is a special honour’
In his statement to the official Manchester United website, Mourinho described his passion and joy at joining.
“To become Manchester United manager is a special honour in the game. It is a club known and admired throughout the world. There is a mystique and a romance about it which no other club can match.
“I have always felt an affinity with Old Trafford; it has hosted some important memories for me in my career and I have always enjoyed a rapport with the United fans. I’m looking forward to being their manager and enjoying their magnificent support in the coming years.”
The Courtship of Mourinho
The anticipation and reaction to his appointment has paradoxically been calm whilst still managing to generate column inches worldwide. One broadcast sports outlet had been running ‘Mourinho to United’ live daily blogs, updating fans with ‘The Special One’s’ movements around London and showing live footage of removal men leaving his house carrying brown boxes.
Manchester United’s courtship of Mourinho was one of the worst kept secrets in football, with both United and Gestifute – the Jorge Mendes client agency representing Mourinho – briefing journalists on the movements of negotiations, with handily timed hints linking Mourinho with Paris Saint Germain appearing in newspapers when Manchester United chief executive, Edward Woodward, appeared to be wavering on his desire to replace outgoing boss Louis van Gaal.
It was a masterclass in public relations as both were distantly flirtatious; playing a modern dating game of being interested, but not too interested.
In much the same way as he did in the beginning of his two spells at Chelsea, he has swept in with a wave of hype and fervour amongst fans. As is a football fans’ want, many of those previously critical of Mourinho when at Chelsea are now delighted to have the Portuguese managing their club.
Longing For Manchester
It is no secret that Mourinho has cast longing eyes towards Old Trafford for many years. Observers in Spain noted a particularly downcast Mourinho the day after David Moyes was announced as the successor to Sir Alex Ferguson in May 2013. El Pais journalist, Diego Torres, wrote a book on Mourinho’s time in Spain’s capital city as head coach of Real Madrid and describes the day after Mourinho found out that Moyes was set to be appointed.
According to Torres, ‘In the morning he [Mourinho] called Mendes so that he urgently got in touch with United. Until the end he wanted his agent to pressure the English club as an attempt to block any operation. It was an act of desperation. They both knew that Mendes had put Mourinho in the market a year earlier.’
Since 2012 when United club legend Bobby Charlton said ‘Mourinho is a really good coach but that’s as far as I would go really. He pontificates too much for my liking’, it would appear that attitudes at Old Trafford have changed. The hierarchy certainly appear less inspired by history and culture and increasingly by the hunt for trophies and commercial success. Manchester United, once a club that stood out under Ferguson as having a solid ethos and dedication to attacking football, is now more focused on the what, rather than the how.
You cannot argue against Mourinho being a winner; drive and determination is in his DNA. As with evidence from his spells with Chelsea, Internazionale and Real Madrid, he is all charm and smiles at the beginning of the project, but his smooth suave demeanour can soon change as he puts himself in full combat mode.
One of the more powerful quotes from Torres’ book somewhat prophetically described what happens when things go downhill, as they did in spectacular fashion during his second spell with Chelsea. “The problem is that when things don’t work for Mou, he doesn’t do club politics. He does José politics.’
Mourinho ‘home’ at Old Trafford
There is a strong train of thought that suggests that Mourinho is now ‘home’. He is where he wanted to be all along; finally the lord of the Old Trafford manor, where Sir Alex Ferguson laid down the foundations and built his dynasty.
Mourinho is a very intelligent guy and he must know that times at United have changed. At boardroom level the goalposts have shifted due to the dull, boring football of van Gaal and a largely trophy starved three seasons, Mourinho has entered the club wielding considerable power, bolstered by a resume that commands respect.
He knew exactly what he was saying when he addressed fans on MUTV, ‘We can look at our club in two perspectives. One is the past three years, and another is the club history. I prefer to forget the past three years and focus on the history, and the giant club that I have in my hands now.
Pep Guardiola arriving in the blue half of Manchester meant that United had to strike back to not lose ground in the battle to be the top dogs in their city. Underneath his outward charm, Manchester United know they have got the perfect man in Mourinho to lead an assault for the Premier League Title and once again rule the roost in Manchester. Just don’t expect him to do it full of charm and grace. Leopard’s rarely change their spots.