When Roman Abramovich put Jose Mourinho out of his misery at Chelsea last season. I was glad we had collectively heard the last of him. I could swear the whole world heaved a sigh of relief.
I could bet my last dollar that, he was toast and would never get another job with a top club again. I was very wrong. I did not factor in the deep routed desire of his mentor, Louis Van Gaal to do anything for a desperate protégé.
LvG knew that the only way for Jose to get the job was for him to flunk out of the top 4 and play badly and he duly delivered both and hence forced Ed Woodward’s hand in appointing Jose Mourinho as the new manager of Manchester United.
Jokes aside. The return of Jose is massive, it sets the scene for a combustible 2016 / 17 season in the Premier League. Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Antonio Conte, Arsene Wenger. 2 top managers will be crying into their coffee at the end of the season for missing out on a top 4 place.
It is also massive for Man United as lack of top 4 qualification will mean a 2nd successive year outside of the UCL except if they do one better than Liverpool and win the Europa. It has significant implications for their Adidas kit deal and will mean a 4th year without their league trophy birthright.
United have been somewhat forced down this route because (AT THIS VERY MOMENT) winning is all that matters now. Forget style, forget youth development, forget the Man U way, it is now all about winning. I feel Moyes & LvG have sort of demystified Man U to the extent that most teams go to Old Trafford without any fear and until they start to beat and steam roller opponents again, the fear factor won’t return.
As part of my research for this article, I have re - read the Man U official announcement of Mourinho’s appointment. You can find the statement here . It is noteworthy in that announcement that nowhere is style of play, youth development or the Manchester United way referenced. It is all about winning. You might wish to contrast that with the announcement of Carlo Ancelloti at Bayern Munich here and the very comprehensive statement made by Chelsea on the appointment of Conte here
Just before the appointment of Mourinho at United especially with the highlighting of Jose’s fault lines (not developing youth and attacking style of play), news articles started to surface about how Jose’s Chelsea squad Mark 1 was the youngest side to win the Premier League and how his Real Madrid title winning squad scored the highest number of goals ever in one season.
Of course, it will not be the first attempt by anybody to rewrite history. However I am unsure how his youngest side to win the league compares with bringing youth through / developing youth. The gold standard for the latter as far as I am aware is the Manchester United Class of 1992. David Beckham joined United at 14, same age as Ryan Giggs. Paul Scholes started training with United at the same age. Gary Neville appears to have joined at age 16 after finishing school while his brother Phil joined in 1990. Nicky Butt the 6th iconic member of that group also joined at the age of 16.
All six were products of the United academy. Name me one player that was the product of any academy that Mourinho coached in his post Porto years. Just ONE. It is easy to have bought and assemble Petr Cech at age 22, Carvalho at 26, Joe Cole at 23, Duff at 25, Arjen Robben at 20, Huth at 20 and claim you won the league with the youngest set of players. None of whom originated from the Chelsea academy. With the youth set up at Chelsea, you will imagine that ONE youthful talent would have been developed from Chelsea in Jose’ two terms. You will imagine wrong.
The story is similar at Inter Milan and at Real Madrid. Manchester United fans who expect Jose to help develop young talent will be disappointed. Sorry. Expect Rashford to be chastised soon for not tracking the runs of the opponent’s strikers and wingers and kiss good buy to any talent from your academy breaking into the first team.
Now to that fabled 'Real Madrid under Jose played attacking football' and scored a record 121 goals. Just for context, Barcelona scored 7 goals less. Real Madrid’s 121 goals under Jose included results such as 5 nil against Espanyol, 7 – 1 against Osasuna home and 5 away, 6 against Real Valladolid , another 5 against Sociedad and 6 each versus Zaragoza & Sevilla. Some terribly competitive league which should be used as a standard for attacking proficiency.
Why does Jose bristle when his style of play is referred to as boring? Why is he regarded as the ‘park the bus’’ master? In his last title winning squad with Chelsea, he scored 10 fewer goals than Manchester City , 15 fewer than Arsenal in his first Premier League win and same number of goals as Manchester United in his 2nd title win. So don’t let anybody rewrite history about Jose’s team’s ability to attack. Jose is about tight defences and nicking one to win.
Will his appointment at Old Trafford work out. Nobody knows. Not even Ed Woodward and Jose himself. What Mr. Woodward has done is to play the percentages. Jose’s track record is such that he has won the league everywhere he has managed except at Benfica & Uniao de Leiria.
Will it happen again though? I am willing to put money that it won’t. The Premier League genie is out of the bag in my opinion. There are now 12 also ran teams in the Premier League who are plotting to do a Leicester. Winning games by turning up is passe, brow beaten opponents based on reputation is gone. C'EST FINI.
I only hope the referees and the Premier League play a straight bat.