Jose Mourinho’s comments after his Real Madrid side’s Champion’s League win over Manchester United almost read like a job application for the Red Devils.
Mourinho stated: “The best team lost. We didn’t deserve to win, but that is football.” He told the media after a tense 3-2 aggregate win.
“I know Manchester United are giants, not just physically but mentally. I know they have a manager who can motivate them.”
Such comments seemed out of place for a man who was notorious for his arrogance, rather than his flattery for the opposition. Perhaps this is because he sees himself at Old Trafford one day.
But where will ‘The Special One’ end up?
It seems very unlikely that he will remain with Spanish giants Real Madrid, with an icy relationship with the Spanish media, discontent among his top players and the small matter of being 13 points adrift in the league pushing Mourinho closer to the exit regardless of whether he wins a coveted third European trophy.
Mourinho has come in for harsh criticism after dropping club legend Iker Casillas against Malaga last December, with rumours abound that the club’s top players, including Casillas and defender Sergio Ramos, had spoken to chairman Florentino Perez in a bid to get Mourinho removed. While these rumours were later refuted by the players, there was clearly disharmony in the dressing room.
There is a similar situation brewing at one of Mourinho’s old clubs, Chelsea. There has been great discontent at Stamford Bridge when Champions League-winning coach Roberto Di Matteo was sacked and replaced by Rafa Benitez.
Benitez faced hostilities before he had even taken a game for the Blues, fuelled by his comments about the club when he was in charge of Liverpool. The Spaniard has since had even more difficulty winning over the fans than he has winning games, and recently confirmed his departure at the end of the season in an angry rant to the media.
Mourinho is the bookies favourite to take over at Chelsea after winning back-to-back titles and three domestic cups in his three seasons at the club. While there can be no doubt that Mourinho would be the man to keep Chelsea’s senior players in line and rebuild the side, it would be a mistake on the part of the Portuguese to return.
He left Chelsea in bad blood after their mega-bucks chairman, Roman Abramovich, interfered with the club’s transfer policy. The Russian has shown no signs of relenting in this habit with a string of controversial decisions and vanity signings, like £50m Spanish flop Fernando Torres.
Mourinho won’t settle for anything less than complete control of the club he is working with. Unfortunately, the capacity at Stamford Bridge isn’t big enough for both men’s egos.
Another job the Portuguese has been linked with, and not for the first time, is Roberto Mancini’s one at Manchester City. Mourinho took over from Mancini at Inter Milan in 2008, and history could well repeat itself with huge pressure on the Italian in his current post at Manchester City.
Having failed to deliver on the European stage, and with their chances of retaining the Premier League title looking increasingly slim, the Manchester City board are rumoured to be ready to give Mancini the chop.
As you can imagine, Mourinho’s record of building title-winning teams combined with the limitless wealth of the Abu Dhabi owners looks an attractive prospect. But it seems unlikely considering Mourinho has always seemed to have his sights set on another team in Manchester.
Mourinho has always had a great respect for United and their manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Many have speculated that were Mourinho to return to our shores, it would be to replace Sir Alex, and no doubt with the great Scot’s blessing.
There would still be a number of issues with such a move however. Manchester United’s greatest managers are renowned for their longevity, the great Matt Busby led the club for 24 years, while Sir Alex has clocked in 27 and is still going strong. Mourinho, on the other hand, has never completed more than three seasons at a club, and it is well documented he leaves a ‘tornado of destruction’ behind him, as is evident by Chelsea and Inter Milan’s current situations.
As well as this, would Mourinho be able to conduct himself as a Manchester United manager should? Exploits like poking a member of the opposition in the eye (as he did infamously against then-Barcelona assistant Tito Vilanova) have landed him in hot water, and this is in the crazy, larger-than-life surroundings of Real Madrid. Such actions would not be tolerated at Old Trafford.
But, as shown above, Mourinho has mellowed more recently and stepped out of the limelight. This has also led to an improvement in Real’s fortunes, with only one loss in their last 16 including two victories over bitter rivals Barcelona. In the two-legged victory against Manchester United Mourinho scored a victory on two counts: tactically and in his demeanour.
So perhaps there is something in the idea that Tuesday’s comments were something of an audition for the Manchester United role, and maybe Mourinho should wait for his friend Sir Alex to step aside and take the job he has coveted for so long.
Wherever he goes, the fireworks are sure to follow.
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