Daniel McDonnell: ‘It’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that Jose Mourinho’s best days are long behind him’


Jose Mourinho enjoyed lots of success early in his career, but it has dried up in recent times.
Jose Mourinho enjoyed lots of success early in his career, but it has dried up in recent times.

FAILURE can be a lucrative business for a Premier League manager. Reports of a payoff worth more than £20m to Jose Mourinho should remove any lingering sympathy for Manchester United’s ex-boss.

There is a danger, of course, in presuming that money equals happiness. Mourinho is a walking, talking example of that given that he has cut a miserable figure for the majority of his time in one of football’s top jobs. While his team lacked a clear identity, this Manchester United side stirred emotions that were in line with the manager’s demeanour. Drained of energy and enthusiasm,  they were living off their name, a shadow of their old selves.

There was sympathy for Mourinho from sections of the fanbase who rightly have concerns about the boardroom strategy behind the scenes. United’s recruitment strategy has been flawed and Mourinho skilfully managed to distance himself from some of that, presenting the image of a man with his hands tied even though he had splashed serious amounts of cash. His legacy includes the £350,000 a week Alexis Sanchez, a player that was secured ahead of Manchester City. He looks out of love with the game too.

There are layers to the reasons for Mourinho’s departure, excuses and angles that can be poked at. The most straightforward one is that he paid the penalty for a negativity that is out of kilter with what is expected at the top end of the Premier League these days.

It’s revisionism to say that all of Mourinho’s teams have been boring. That would be unfair. Yet he came in with a reputation as a proven winner that would deliver trophies by whatever means possible.

He might say that he didn’t have the tools to do that. However, Premier League top dogs Manchester City and Liverpool have teams with a defined personality and style of play which is both thrilling to watch and effective.

Mourinho relied on the latter to compensate for the absence of the former but ended up with nothing from Column A and nothing from Column B. Football is cyclical, of course, and there will always be a demand for pragmatic managers that can come in and organise sides.

But the big six in England are pulling away and the brief is broader than that. Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs have overcome financial limitations relative to their rivals by thriving in the attacking department. Unai Emery’s Arsenal and Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea are a work in progress, but their sides are worth watching. The prospect of tuning into Mourinho’s United was a grim one.

As strong as the global brand might be, the pedestrian nature of his side’s performances were chipping away at the image. More pertinently, the charisma of the ‘Special One’ era has been replaced by a jaded anger. Players are seeing through it.

The wins weren’t enough to paper over the cracks. Last month’s fortunate success in Turin was followed by trademark Mourinho posturing which shone a light on his style; it’s always about him when the United role should be about more than that.

Alex Ferguson was the all powerful figure that kept the club together, but the defining images of his stay would involve Cantona and Keane and great games and goals. Mourinho’s stint? What immediately springs to mind is the sideline antics and the odd entertaining press conference. It was lively for the journalists on the Manchester beat, but dull and repetitive for the outside world.

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Last summer, Mourinho picked up a gig with Russia Today during the World Cup. It was a bizarre ambassadorial role which consisted of a few unremarkable interviews and a publicity appearance or two across the competition. The power of his profile will ensure that there’s always another gig around the corner. However, it’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that his best days in football are long behind him.

Online Editors


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