A book published by respected Spanish journalist Diego Torres last year made the sensational claim that Jose Mourinho “broke down in tears” after learning that he had been overlooked for the Manchester United job in favour of David Moyes.
The Portuguese coach, who was coming towards the end of his spell with Real Madrid at the time, apparently had his heart set on replacing the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson - a friend of his - at Old Trafford. But Ferguson instead opted for Moyes - a decision which, in hindsight, now looks spectacularly bad.
Van Gaal will be perfect for United in 2017
But if Louis van Gaal finds himself in a similar situation to Ferguson when he finally calls time on his Manchester United career - the fortunate position of being able to call the shots - there’s only one manager the Dutch coach should recommend to succeed him, and that’s Mourinho.
A born winner who assembles great teams by getting the absolute maximum out of his players, Mourinho would have been a shrewd choice for Manchester United in 2013, but will be even more suited to the role when Van Gaal finally walks away from Old Trafford. That could be as early as 2017, when the 63-year-old’s three-year contract expires.
Ferguson had his reasons for Mourinho snub
While Ferguson’s decision to overlook Mourinho might seem bizarre today, it’s important to remember how the former Porto and Inter Milan coach was regarded amongst his peers 18 months ago.
Ferguson was a fan of Mourinho’s but, along with Sir Bobby Charlton and the Glazer family, may have felt that he was too big a risk because of his track record of leaving clubs after a short period of time and often after a major fall-out.
His tenure at Real Madrid could not have ended on a worse note; he fell out with just about everyone in the dressing room at the Bernabeu, not to mention the club’s exhausted board, before walking away without a single major trophy to show for his final season with the Spanish giants.
Chelsea flourishing under Mourinho - again
After news broke that Manchester United wanted Moyes, whose ill-fated spell at Old Trafford lasted just 10 months, there was only ever club that Mourinho was heading to.
Chelsea are now reaping the rewards for re-appointed the revered coach and appear on course to challenge for the Premier League and Champions League trophies this season. It would come as no surprise if the west London outfit end up securing both titles.
Mourinho deserves praise for the manner in which he has re-shaped Chelsea over the past year. He’s brought in the right players, got rid of the deadwood and said goodbye to several of the club’s veterans who were past their best.
It would have been easy for Mourinho to stick with the likes of Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard for a little longer - or at least keep them at Stamford Bridge for sentimental reasons - but Mourinho knew it was in the club’s best interests to replace them. Similarly with goalkeeper Petr Cech, it was a brave move to relegate the fan favourite to the subs’ bench, but it needed to happen in order to convince Thibaut Courtois to stay with the club.
Mourinho capable of making big decisions
These are the important decisions that all managers must make - but not all of them are brave enough to do so. Mourinho, like Ferguson and Van Gaal, has the single-mindedness to make decisions he feels will benefit his team - even if they’re unpopular in the eyes of the supporters.
He was castigated by the Real Madrid fans for dropping club legend Iker Casillas in favour of Diego Lopez, but ask them now whether he made the right call and they’d all sheepishly admit that he was spot on.
Mourinho guarantees success
Mourinho is one of the few managers in world football who guarantees success. And although Ryan Giggs would be the romantic choice for Manchester United, the Welshman needs plenty of experience as a number one before he’s handed the manager’s job at Old Trafford on a permanent basis.
It would have been a catastrophic error to hand Giggs the reigns at the end of last season, but even with several years experience working as Van Gaal’s assistant, he still won’t be ready to take one of the biggest jobs in world football.
"Mourinho wouldn't stop calling them. His 'interlocutors' had heard him sob loudly and they were spreading the word. The most feared man in the company was crushed." - Diego Torres on Mourinho following his United snub.
Mourinho the best candidate - but will he leave Chelsea?
There are a number of other candidates who will probably be considered to succeed Van Gaal. Jurgen Klopp could be one, although Borussia Dortmund are faltering badly at the start of this season, while Diego Simeone will be in the frame after his stunning exploits with Atletico Madrid last season.
The passionate Argentine, however, doesn’t speak very good English and this will count against him unless he improves over the forthcoming years. Pep Guardiola could also be in the mix, but there’s always a sense with the Catalan hero that his heart belongs in Barcelona. Would it work out for him at Old Trafford?
Because Mourinho knows English football inside out and clearly has deep respect for Manchester United - he even revealed last year that he’s an MUTV subscriber - he would appear to be the ideal successor for Van Gaal, who knows him well from their time working together at Barcelona in the late 1990s.
Whether he would be brave enough to leave Chelsea for United is the big question. But Mourinho has never been one to shirk a challenge - and this would undoubtedly be the biggest challenge of his managerial career.