Jose Mourinho’s time at the top of club football is over, he should move on
Jose Mourinho has been a football manager for nearly two decades, the best part of which has been at the very highest end of the sport, but that time is over. No longer is Jose the Special One, his methods have become all the more outdated and all the less impactful.
With no physical decline in managers like there is with players, it is often assumed that they can go on and on. A good manager will remain a good manager from their initial success to when they are hired by their 10th club, 20 years later. This is not the case for the vast majority.
Whilst there are a handful of managers that can reinvent their style, or at least continue to mould it over the years to stay relevant and successful, most do not have the ability to do so. Sir Alex Ferguson had that ability, Arsene Wenger did not. The likes of Fabio Capello, Louis van Gaal, Brian Clough, George Graham and Sven-Goran Eriksson are all examples of coaches that reached spectacular heights, but saw their careers tail off badly when they ran out of ideas.
A manager might not see his legs go like a formerly flying winger, but he reaches the end of his playbook, his mind games become all too easy to play and the drive and passion to win can dim over time as he gets older and the job gets harder.
Mourinho has never stayed long at a club, with his lengthiest stint being at Chelsea first time round from June 2004 to September 2007. Many will be tempted to write his current problems at Manchester United off as his usual cycle with a team. ‘Mourinho only ever lasts three seasons, he’ll be off and pop up somewhere else ready to win things again.’ Except, this has not been his usual cycle. The normal way of things under Mourinho is to make a superb start, achieve great things for a year or two and then fall off a cliff before his exit. United might be tumbling down the cliff-face right now, but it is not from a particularly great height that they are falling.
The first season at Old Trafford for the Portuguese wasn’t a complete failure, but for the standards set on the red half of Manchester it was not great. Yes they picked up the Europa League and the League Cup, and much was made of winning Europe’s secondary competition for the first time in the club’s history, but this was very much a marketing spin. The damning reality was that United finished sixth in the Premier League, scored less goals than Bournemouth and finished an entire 24 points behind champions Chelsea.
United may have improved to second in the table in Mourinho’s second campaign, but they were underwhelming throughout the season, finished 19 points behind Manchester City, crumbled in the Champions League and picked up no silverware. Another failure.
In Mourinho’s two full seasons he has not won a single Premier League Manager of the Month award whilst 11 others have. Only one Manchester United player has made it into the Premier League Team of the Season and that has been goalkeeper David de Gea. Whilst not entirely Jose’s fault, Romelu Lukaku scored less goals in his first season with United than he did in either of the previous two with Everton. None of these are damning indictments alone, but they all go to show that the Mourinho-Man Utd marriage has not been a happy one. Not for the manager, the players, the fans, not for anyone except maybe David de Gea.
What has been most concerning for Mourinho is his complete inability to implant any kind of philosophy on this United side. He has never had the clearest, most recognisable brand of football, like a Jurgen Klopp or a Pep Guardiola side, but you know what to expect from a Mourinho outfit. They will be incredibly well drilled, fast, powerful, physical and very difficult to break down. You cannot say those things anymore. In fact, it is hard to come up with many superlatives about Jose’s Red Devils.
There are plenty of negatives. They are inconsistent, ponderous, mentally fragile, they often lack threat and they instil no fear or intimidation in their opposition, like any Mourinho side of old has done.
The former Special One has never had much idea of what his best side is, how best to set up his United first XI or how to get the best out of the star players in his squad. He has clearly not been able to get the players he wanted in the transfer market, but he has shown no ability to work around those failings from the board. Whilst it might not be the exact roster he would choose, he still has an extremely expensively assembled squad at his disposal, and they are a long, long way from the sum of their parts.
Whilst Jose may well be used to this, what will be bothering his current and any potential future employers is how remarkably regularly he falls out with people. Not people you would expect him to, like opposition managers or referees, but his own players, and often his best players. Notably unhappy campers in the United squad this season appear to be Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez, Anthony Martial and Antonio Valencia. If United are going to challenge for the Premier League title, this quartet would need to be playing at their peaks, not squabbling with the boss, regularly being dropped for unexplained reasons.
Mourinho has always been a fiery, turbulent character and has not been afraid to ostracise big names from his squad, but the situation at United has plumbed new depths. This has not been Jose moving some players on that he wants to replace, it is not imposing his will by removing the odd dissenting voice. This is a complete failure to manage some of the best footballers at the club, seemingly because of failings in his own personality.
The Mourinho gamble for Manchester United appears destined to fail. If he makes it to the end of this season it would be a surprise and he will most likely leave the club in a no better position than where he found it. Will another top club be ready to take the same gamble? It seems unlikely.
Mourinho was once almost a guaranteed trophy-winner, a by word for success. Yes there were unwanted consequences of his appointment, and things were not always plain sailing, but his failings were all worth it. It appears that this is no longer the case. You get the bad bits of having Mourinho in charge of your club, and the positives are no longer guaranteed.
Could he turn up at Paris Saint-Germain? Yes, that is foreseeable. Is the Portugal national team in his future? perhaps. But will he ever be employed by a genuine title-challenger in England, Spain, Italy or even Germany ever again? It really doesn’t seem likely. Why would a forward thinking club want to hire a manager who has peaked, will cost an incredible amount and will leave in three years having annoyed a load of people and left the team in a no better place, with no guarantee of silverware? They wouldn’t.
Mourinho has had his time at the pinnacle of the game. When he leaves Old Trafford for the last time, he will never return to football’s top table.
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October 11th, 2018 by Simon A