The rise and fall of Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho’s acrimonious departure from Manchester United cannot mask the fact that the Portuguese is still undoubtedly one of the finest managers of his generation, writes Tunde Sulaiman
Albert Einstein, the universally acclaimed German-born theoretical physicist, who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics), once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Sadly this appears to be the path that the manager of one of the biggest clubs in the world, Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho opted to embark upon with ultimately disastrous results.
His arrival at Old Trafford in the summer of 2016 was heralded as the beginning of United’s return to the summit of English football, especially with his trophy-laden record of success at all the clubs he had previously worked at.
And it appeared this would continue at the Theatre of Dreams when on August 7, 2016, he won his first trophy, the FA Community Shield, beating reigning Premier League champions Leicester City 2–1.
Although he ultimately failed to end United’s four-year wait for the Premier League title, he did, however, beat Southampton 3–2 in the EFL Cup Final to become the first United manager to win a major trophy in his debut season.
And on May 24, 2017, Manchester United won the Europa League courtesy of a 2–0 win over AFC Ajax. This was Mourinho’s second major trophy of his first season as Manchester United manager. It also maintained his 100% record of winning every major European Cup final as a manager.
But the following season he was not as successful failing to win any trophy and although he managed to get the Red Devils’ finishing second on the table (the highest they have finished since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013) the fact that they were 19 points behind Manchester City was damning.
However, the dark clouds that had been swirling around the Portuguese grew darker over the summer going into his third season when he publically complained that the Old Trafford hierarchy had failed to back him in the transfer market especially concerning getting defenders.
But he failed to explain why he was unable to get the best out of those he had despite the over £60 million he spent on just two defenders – Eric Bailly – £30million from Villarreal and Victor Lindelof – £30.7 million from Benfica.
As if this was not enough, he then started fighting with some of his high-profile stars like Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku and his toxic relationship started to affect things on the field of play, which meant that a team that finished second only last season was now floundering in mid table this term.
But perhaps what was more telling was the awful display of United even in games against the so-called “minnows” in the Premier League, talk much less of last Sunday’s abject capitulation at their great North-West rivals, Liverpool
Many pundits believed that had he wards put up a decent fight like they often did under Sir Alex even when they losing, then perhaps the “Happy One” would have still been given more time.
The stats clearly showed how poor his team was playing Liverpool with only six shots on target compared to the Reds’ 36!
Before then, Mourinho had watched perplexed as City completely outplayed his team at the Etihad including a record-breaking 42 passes in the build up to the third goal without a single United player making any serious effort to win the ball back.
It appeared that once again the usual demons that seem to manifest in his third term had returned to haunt him in this campaign.
And after the Red Devils’ only managed to pick up 26 points after their first 17 Premier League games, their worst points haul in the top flight at this stage since 1990-91, United, which is loathed to sack managers, finally lost faith with the man, who had clearly lost the dressing room, after the abject capitulation at Anfield last Sunday.
Under Mourinho this season the stats have just been very damning:
*They have conceded 29 goals in the league this season – one more than they did in the whole of the 2017-18 campaign (28).
*They are 19 points off leaders Liverpool, 11 points off the top four and closer to the relegation zone than the top of the table.
*They have one win in six league games and a goal difference of zero.
Liverpool’s 19-point advantage over United is their biggest after the first 17 games of a top-flight season.
Liverpool had 36 shots on Sunday – the most United have faced in a Premier League match since Opta started recording shot data in 2003-04.
So long as results on the field had been good the Portuguese had a job but once things turned his situation became untenable.
Added to the fact that despite spending close to £400million in his time in charge, his team was neither playing attractive football nor even grinding out results it was clear that it was only a matter of time that the Old Trafford side would be in search for their fourth manager since the departure of their very successful Sir Alex Ferguson.
David Moyes took over his fellow Scotsman and left after only eight months, Luis van Gaal, who guided Holland to third place at the 2014 World Cup, came in won an FA Cup and was then shown the door two days later to be replaced by Mourinho.
However, Mourinho should not shoulder all the blame for United’s woes because Ed Woodward, who is in charge at Old Trafford as Executive Vice-Chairman, should have known what he was getting into in signing the Portuguese, who was hardly ever going to deviate from his safety first approach to the game – which is in direct contrast to the ethos of the Red Devils, which is to play attractive offensive football.
Woodward’s background as a former accountant and investment banker meant that he was out of his depth in the topsy turvy world of football, which perhaps also explains why he opted to give Mourinho a contract extension in January when the club was nowhere near playing well or challenging for the title.
This also meant that United was forced into coughing out a huge severance package for getting rid of Mourinho. Although the sum has not been disclosed, however, some reports have it that it could have been as much as £24million.
And thus exactly three years and a day after he was unceremoniously asked to leave Stamford Bridge, lightning struck again with Mourinho being ousted from his dream Old Trafford job.
But it all began so differently. He first burst on the international stage in 2003 when he guided unfancied Porto of Portugal to the now rested UEFA Cup and then followed this up with the more prestigious Champions League the following season, upsetting Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United along the way. Mourinhoarrival in England brought some fresh air to the stale nature of the Premier League, which was then dominated by just two managers – Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger.
The Portuguese was the man, who single-handedly changed the face of English football when he joined Chelsea in the summer of 2004.
Full of self-confidence and his ability to get the job done, the then youthful brash 41-year-old became an instant English media delight when during his first press conference after being announced manager at Stamford Bridge he uttered these immortal worlds: “Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one.”
Of course while this rubbed off many as being slightly cocky, especially in a conservative society that often frowns at such, however, the Portuguese manger was able to back up his talk with an unbeaten start to his Premier League sojourn winning all his matches in August, which included an opening match 1-0 win over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.
Under Mourinho, Chelsea did not drop their first points until the fifth game of the season in a goalless draw against Aston Villa on September 11, 2004.
In fact the Blues did not lose their first game until October away at Manchester City, with Nicolas Anelka stroking home a penalty in the 11th minute that he won himself after being felled in the box by Paulo Ferreira. The result left Chelsea further behind pace-setters Arsenal, the margin now at five points.
Ironically that was the only defeat Mourinho’s team was to suffer all season and his team was to rally to their first title in 50 years courtesy of some battling performances in which they set a number of records (which have only recently been broken by Manchester City).
Some of the vast number of records set during the title winning season included: most away wins in a season (15), most clean sheets kept in a season (25), fewest goals conceded away in a season (9), most wins in a season (29), most consecutive away wins (9), fewest goals conceded in a season (15) and most points in a season (95).
After missing out on the league title to the unbeaten Arsenal in the previous season (2003), Chelsea continued spending large sums of money in order to build a squad capable of challenging for honours.
However, despite another huge capital outlay in the second season under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, the Blues failed to improve upon their Champions League semi-final placing the previous year, but in the end only matched that achievement. They also exited the FA Cup in the fifth round to eventual semi-finalists Newcastle United.
But in spite of these setbacks, the ‘Special One’ had laid his marker, especially after also becoming the first foreign manager to land the Premier League title in his very first attempt. He also added the League Cup for good measure.
On a personal level, Mourinho was named the November Manager of the Month, January Manager of the Month and Premier League Manager of the Season – to confirm his “I’m the Special One” boast.
But by this time already a number of pundits had started to query his path to success raising eyebrows over his safety first approach to the game with his teams more often grinding out results rather than playing swashbuckling football.
The following season, Mourinho continued to dip into the pocket of his wealthy Russian billionaire owner, signing Michael Essien from Lyon and Shaun Wright-Phillips from Manchester City for more than £20 million each.
But in spite of the this perceived “safety first” flaw, the Portuguese’s second season was momentous for Chelsea’s incredible start to the campaign where they recorded the most dominant first half of a Premier League season in history at that time.
They won a record nine games in a row at the start of the season, which culminated in another record holding 17 wins out of the first 19 games. As of 2017 Chelsea 2005-06 hold joint records for most wins at home in a season (18) and fewest home defeats in a season (0).
Although the Blues did suffer more defeats this term (five) they were still clearly the best team in the marathon called the league and ended the season ensuring that Mourinho became the first manager in history of the English game to win back-to-back titles in the first time of asking.
In spite of the ability to buy the best players in world football, the native of Setubal constantly downplayed this as an advantage insisting that Chelsea’s success was more down to his hard work than having deep pockets.
“We are on top at the moment but not because of the club’s financial power. We are in contention for a lot of trophies because of my hard work.
“If Roman Abramovich helped me out in training we would be bottom of the league and if I had to work in his world of big business, we would be bankrupt!”
He also brushed aside claims that under him the club valued winning at all cost over keeping to the ethos of the “beautiful game”.
“I am not concerned about how Chelsea are viewed morally. What does concern me is that we are treated in a different way to other clubs. Some clubs are treated as devils, some are treated as angels. I don’t think we are so ugly that we should be seen as the devil and I don’t think Arsene Wenger and David Dein are so beautiful that they should be viewed as angels,” was his curt response to that complaint.
On another occasion he was more blunt saying: “I don’t say we are a defensive team. I say we are a strong team in defensive terms, but at the same time lacking sufficient fluidity in attack because that will take time to come.”
Nevertheless, in his third season dark clouds had already started gathering over the loquacious Portuguese whose feud with Arsenal’s long serving manager, Arsene Wenger was beginning to look like the “theatre of the absurd”, with many considering him going overboard with his constant verbal broadsides at the French tactician.
At the beginning of the campaign, Wenger had raised concerns over the way and manner Chelsea was going about their business of being the dominant team in English football, saying: “I know we live in a world where we have only winners and losers, but once a sport encourages teams who refuse to take the initiative, the sport is in danger.”
Of course an unimpressed Mourinho fired back: “Wenger has a real problem with us and I think he is what you call in England a voyeur. He is someone who likes to watch other people. There are some guys who, when they are at home, have a big telescope to see what happens in other families. Wenger must be one of them – it is a sickness. He speaks, speaks, speaks about Chelsea.”
He went on to add: “At Stamford Bridge, we have a file of quotes from Mr Wenger about Chelsea football club in the last 12 months – it is not a file of five pages. It is a file of 120 pages.”
Mourinho was, however, unable to make it a hat trick of triumphs with Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United finally wrestling the league diadem back from the London club.
Chelsea finished second six points behind the Red Devils even though they only lost three times (unlike the five the previous season).
Going into the 2007–08 season, speculation continued to mount of a frosty relationship between Mourinho and owner Abramovich, which might see him leaving the club.
In the first match of the 2007–08 season, Chelsea beat Birmingham City 3–2 to set a new record of 64 consecutive home league matches without defeat.
Despite surpassing the record set by Liverpool between 1978 and 1981, the start to the 2007–08 Chelsea season was less successful as previous starts.
The team lost at Aston Villa and followed this with a goalless draw at home to Blackburn Rovers. Their opening game in the UEFA Champions League saw them only manage a 1–1 home draw against the Norwegian team Rosenborg BK in front of only 24,973 (an almost half-empty stadium) which included an unimpressed owner Roman Abramovich.
Finally matters came to a head on September 20, 2007 with Mourinho unexpectedly leaving Chelsea as the most successful manager in Chelsea’s history, having won six trophies for the club in three years. He was also undefeated in all home league games.
His next port of call was Italy where he joined Inter Milan on
June 2, 2008 as the successor of Roberto Mancini on a three-year contract, and brought along with him much of his backroom staff who had served him at both Chelsea and Porto.
At his very first press conference as Inter boss he spoke solely in Italian, claiming to have learnt it “in three weeks”.
Mourinho stated that he only intended to make a few major signings that summer. By the end of the transfer window, he had brought three new players to the side: Brazilian winger Mancini (€13 million), Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari for a reported €14 million and Portuguese winger Ricardo Quaresma for a cash/player exchange fee of €18.6 million plus young Portuguese midfielder Pele.
In his first season as Inter head coach, Mourinho won the Supercoppa Italiana, beating Roma on penalties, and finished top of Serie A. Inter, however, were eliminated 2–0 on aggregate by Manchester United in the first knock-out round of the Champions League, and he also failed to win the Coppa Italia, being defeated 3–1 on aggregate by Sampdoria in the semi-finals.
Despite his domestic successes in winning the Scudetto by a ten-point margin, Mourinho’s first season in Italy was viewed as disappointing by some Inter fans, as the club failed to improve on the performances of his predecessor Roberto Mancini in the Champions League.
And in keeping to type, Mourinho also caused immediate ripples in Italian football through his controversial relationships with the Italian press and media, as well as his feuds with major Serie A coaches, including Carlo Ancelotti, then of Milan, Luciano Spalletti of Roma and Claudio Ranieri of Juventus.
At a press conference in March 2009, he insulted the first two rivals by claiming they would end the season with no honours, and accused the Italian sport journalists of “intellectual prostitution” on their behalf.
In his second season Mourinho became the first manager in history on April 6, 2010 to take three different teams to the semi-finals of the Champions League (this record was equalled by Bayern Munich manager Louis van Gaal a day later) after Inter managed to overcome CSKA Moscow 0–1 in Russia in the second leg of their quarter-final tie, which ended 2–0 on aggregate.
He continued with his epoch-making run in Italian when on May 2, after a 2–0 away win at Rome against Lazio, Inter almost secured the Serie A title. Three days later, the team won the Coppa Italia, defeating Roma 1–0, and on May 16, 2010, Inter beat Siena 1–0 to secure the domestic double, accomplishing the feat of winning all trophies available for a manager in the Serie A.
On May 22, 2010, Inter won the 2010 Champions League after beating Bayern Munich 2–0, and in doing so became the first Italian club to complete the treble, with Mourinho personally celebrating the second Champions League title in his managerial career.
But 24 hours after celebrating their epoch-making victory, Mourinho dropped a bombshell saying: he was “sad, as almost for sure it’s my last game with Inter”. He then added that “if you don’t coach Real Madrid then you will always have a gap in your career”.
After days of discussions between Real Madrid and Inter, a world record breaking compensation package was successfully agreed on May 28, 2010, and Mourinho was consequently released by Inter.
In Spain it became another “Jose Mourinho circus” with the ‘Special One’ winning the Copa del Rey in his first season. The following year, he won La Liga, and became the fifth coach to have won league titles in four countries.
But he made his mark when only in his second season on May 2, 2012; Real Madrid won 0–3 against Athletic Bilbao to clinch the Liga title for the first time in four years. On May 13 2012, Madrid defeated Mallorca 4–1 in their last league match of the season, which set records for most games won in a La Liga season (32), most away wins (16), most points obtained in any of the top European leagues (100), improving the most goals scored record they already had set earlier (121) and finishing the season with the highest goal difference (+89). Madrid topped the league nine points clear of runners-up Barcelona.
But it would have been out of place if he did not catch the headlines for all the wrong reasons when in his third season he was mired in controversies including poking Tito Vilanova (then assistant coach at Barcelona) in the eye during a brawl, continual complaints about refereeing bias, clashes with journalists and Real officials, and frequent hints that Barça received favourable treatment from UEFA.
And then Mourinho left the club at the end of the season by “mutual agreement”, a year after signing a contract extension to 2016.
He returned to Chelsea on June 3, 2013 and told Chelsea TV, “In my career I’ve had two great passions – Inter and Chelsea – and Chelsea is more than important for me.”
He, however, failed to reproduce his first term performance in which he won the league title in his very first time of asking, finish third in the 2013–14 Premier League, four points behind champions Manchester City.
But was back on top in the second season when on May 3 2015, Chelsea were crowned Premier League champions after beating Crystal Palace with three games to spare.
Mourinho was subsequently named as Premier League Manager of the Season, with Chelsea losing just three matches all season.
However, the wheels fell off in his third season with Chelsea losing nine of their first 16 matches prompting the Blues to terminate his appointment on December 17, 2015.
Despite this blip, Mourinho’s impressive credentials meant that he was still very much in demand and on May 27, 2016, Mourinho signed a three-year contract with Manchester United, with an option to stay at the club until at least 2020.
In his first season he was able to land the League Cup courtesy of a won 3–2 over Southampton to become the first United manager to win a major trophy in his debut season
And even though his team did not really play the “United way” fans were still ready to give him time hoping that perhaps they had finally got the man to return the glory days back to the Theatre of Dreams – alas it was not to be so.
But no matter the acrimonious ending, one cannot deny the fact that Jose Mario dos Santos Mourinho Felix is one of the most decorated managers of the modern area, which was why his sacking became headline news around the world when it broke last Tuesday.