Mourinho looks to have sunk so low that any club willing to take a punt on him would appear absurd
And then he was gone. After Manchester United’s defeat at Liverpool, another instalment in their hall of insipid displays, the club finally decided the risk was no longer worth taking, that the slide finally outweighed the potential huge pay-out, and opted to bin Jose Mourinho, after two and a half years of the Portuguese being at the helm at Old Trafford. While the departure of the former Chelsea from the Theatre of Dreams wasn’t predicted by many to happen at this time, Mourinho and United parting ways in the nearest future was as inevitable as death itself.
At the start of the season, all eyes were primed towards the manager approaching his third season at the club, Jose time, if you could call it that, when things go awry, the squad implodes and the gaffer eventually heads for the door marked ‘do one’. During pre-season, Mourinho had been setting the tone for that, voicing his discontent at United’s transfer activity, and becoming unhappy at Anthony Martial for leaving the team camp to attend the birth of his child.
From there on, the world waited, for when things would become intolerable, waited for breaking point, for when the house of cards Jose had fashioned to come crumbling. After defeat at home to Spurs, a second league loss in a row at the time, Mourinho demanded respect, over the fact that he’s won more league titles than the rest of the 19 top-flight managers combined, and the tones of discontent have followed since, the manager varying the blame from the players he has to the fact that there are some players he didn’t have, players inevitably downed tools, and in the end it seemed like all parties simply decided to let the chips fall where they may. And Jose seems to have fallen on his sword, and for the fourth successive club he’s managed, he hasn’t gotten to a fourth season.
Mourinho looks very much like yesterday’s man, a – as Richard Jolly put it – DVD player which stole a march on the VHS but isn’t quite up to it against online streaming, a man football looks to have left behind. The Portuguese looks incapable of managing beyond a second season, whether by coincidence – which looks unlikely given its regularity – or by design, he seems to epitomise Bela Guttmann’s warning about the ‘third season’. If the third season syndrome is no surprise, what’s amazing is the fact that the qualities Mourinho used to embody, the wherewithal that made him such a consistent manager at the top all these years, he seems to no longer have.
Mourinho is previously famed for motivating and man-managing players, it was said that he could make players run through walls for him, the likes of Maniche and Frank Lampard will eternally attest to that, while Marco Materazzi cried when the manager left Inter Milan in 2010, and the Portuguese was also synonymous with solid and sturdy organisation, as well as being proactive. But those traits looked to have gone, he left Manchester United with the fifth worst defence in the Premier League, with only Fulham having less clean sheets, players have hardly gotten better under him, either stagnating or very much regressing, as a result of being constantly berated publicly by the manager (Paul Pogba is the name that continues to stand out), and his team have been behind for more than 400 minutes in the league, playing catch-up more often than not, some rather un-Jose traits that will define his time at Old Trafford.
Defensive and back-foot football is by no means a wrong kind of football (is there really a right kind?), Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid continue to epitomise that, and the likes of Rafa Benitez also echo it, but Mourinho looks to not have followed up with football’s evolution, defensive and sturdy football is not the same now as it was a decade ago, players need more of arm-on-the-shoulder rather than drill-sergeant treatment, the latter Mourinho very much failing to recognise, having once accused his young players – and people in general – of being spoilt and entitled.
It looks like by constantly playing the underdog card, even when he shouldn’t, Mourinho has become the underachiever he detests, winning the Europa League, aiming towards a top-four slot; the kind of expectations and achievements that would the toes of a 2013-Mourinho curl. After the defeat at Liverpool, Mou spoke about the fact that his team played to their quality, meaning being defensive – and looking shoddy doing so – while waiting for an opposition is United’s current peak, perhaps that was the last straw, a message that he feels his side can’t compete with the rest at the top, which, like his final post-match interview as Chelsea boss, where he spoke of his work being betrayed, just about completely confirmed his lack of faith in his players (who didn’t put themselves in the best light, it should be said).
Mourinho looks to have stagnated, if not regressed, a man who’ll probably still be referred to as a top manager almost exclusively because of his past exaltations, and that may get him another top job (or close), but such is Mourinho’s managerial decline that any club willing to take a punt on him after all this would be seriously questioned, given the look of absurdity and probed as to whether they are acquainted with the modern times, and know the risk they’re taking.
Prime Mourinho always made teams looks better than the sum of their parts, and very much play to his preference; present Mourinho looks like he simply moans and creates more problems, and looks like he can’t get past a third season, which would at least be creditable at United if the first two seasons brought more than League Cup and Europa League successes. Jose looks fatally out of his depth in this era. It really is a case of ‘Special one, special once’.