Jose Mourinho was everything about football management, he was the good, the bad and even the ugly. He was the Special one and later on, the only one, the one who in 2004 gave Sir Alex Fergusson a good run for his money. From almost nowhere, the erstwhile FC Porto coach won a two way contest against the kings of English football to book a place in the final of the UEFA Champions league. With a dominant victory against a Didier Deschamp led Monaco, victory was certain for the Portuguese and he earned his well deserved fame.
To Mourinho’s credit, he “was” a great coach. His tactics were spot on. His character was unpredictable, but he was also an unapologetic sore loser. Mourinho’s weakest point is his inability to evolve tactically and his failure to manage the ego of big players. But he was not always like that. In Barcelona he was loved by the club’s hierarchy and he was a loyal assistant to Louis Van Gaal; so much so that he was offered the job of a full-time assistant coach after Van Gaal was fired in 2000. His ego and his ambition wouldn’t let him take it. Knowing that his experience as an assistant first team coach in Barcelona on his resume was bound to land him a job in Portugal, he took his chances and it paid off.
Former Manchester United captain and Skysport pundit, Gary Neville was quick to blame his third season curse for the clubs decline. He called it a three year cycle . Truly, Mourinho has never been able to keep a winning attitude after three years at any club. This in my opinion is a symptom of a larger problem.
Mourinho was responsible for defensive tactics as Van Gaal’s assistant in Barcelona and he never got himself out of the defensive mentality. Mourinho’s character is seriously flawed in terms of his ability to manage and contain small conflicts that could blow up in the clubs face. He could have managed Chelsea for a decade during his first spell, but he got himself into a popularity contest with club owner Roman Abrahimovic, and naturally he lost the contest. He largely held his own at Inter Milan, offloading six players after the first season, including the Zlatan Ibrahimovich-Samuel Eto swap which payed off big time. He won a treble at Inter, the first and only by any Italian club. He never spent the third season at Inter, so we can only guess what the outcome would had been if he did.
His move to Real Madrid was a breath of fresh air. The league was dominated by a Xavi-Messi-Iniesta led Barcelona with their mesmerizing football. Real Madrid had not advanced past the UEFA Champions league quarter final for seven seasons. He was welcomed to Spain with a 0-5 drubbing by the Catalan club who was still pained by their loss to a Mourinho led Inter earlier that year. But Mourinho had the last laugh when he secured a 1-0 victory at the Copa Del Rey final. He took his defensive tactics to a new height; he played Portuguese defender Pepe as a holding midfielder. By the end of the season he had fallen out with the club’s sporting director Jorge Voldano. With his stock still very high, President Floretino Perez kicked out Voldano. He won the league title in his second season and lost the Copa Delray final to Atletico Madrid in his third season because of a raging feud with Pepe, Ronaldo and Ike Casillas. Benching the duo of Pepe and Cassilas cost him the trophy and consequently his job.
He found himself back at Chelsea in 2013; one year after Chelsea won the UEFA Champions league. They had just won the UEFA cup with Rafael Benitez. Mourinho had touted Benitez for winning the UEFA super cup in Inter Milan based on his Champions league victory that qualified Inter for the competition. Mourinho was now faced with the task of winning the Super Cup based on Benitez’s UEFA cup victory at Chelsea. He faced a Pep Guardiola led Bayern Munich.
He lost to a Romelu Lukaku penalty that never went in. I remember watching the match with a friend and predicting that Lukaku would be sold and so it was that he offloaded Lukaku immediately. He won the league for Chelsea after a five year wait and a league cup in his second season but he never made it to the end of the third season. By December of 2015, he had lost control of the dressing room and Chelsea found itself inches away from the relegation zone. He was fired for the second time.
He never learnt from his previous mistakes. Mourinho never learnt the art of managing the ego of today’s highly paid football stars. Just like his stand off with Casillas, Pepe, and Ronaldo in Madrid, he repeated the same with Hazard and the Spanish contingent at Chelsea. In Manchester, it was his public feud with Pogba that cost him his job. He benched the midfielder in the match against Liverpool and fielded players that couldn’t complete a pass, according to Gary Neville. But this time, he has obviously fallen for good. His chances of getting a role in a top European club at this point in time are very slim. It is a shame because he is still a young manager at 55. But one thing for sure is that he would not be forgotten soon. He will be remembered for the wrong and right reasons. For United fans, this is the needed breath of fresh air. One thing for sure is that Jose Mourhino will surely be missed for his whining and his trouble making abilities.