I like Jose Mourinho. I have always liked Jose Mourinho. I loved his energy and passion as he ran down the touchline at Old Trafford when guiding Porto to Champions League glory. When he joined Chelsea and announced himself to the world as ‘The Special One’ most football followers or supporters fell for his charisma and confidence.
Mourinho has been a winner with every club since his Porto days with two league titles, a domestic cup, UEFA cup and Champions League. Then Chelsea two leagues, two EFL cups and a FA cup in three years. At Inter he achieved a Serie A title in his first season and the treble (Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions league) in his second. Real Madrid came calling and he won La Liga with a record points tally and a Copa Del Rey. And then, the Chelsea return…..
They say a manager should never return to a club he once managed. So Mourinho goes and does what he does and wins the premier league and a league cup. But cracks start to appear, and rapidly. At the start of his third season Mourinho infamously clashed with doctor Eva Carneiro on the opening day of the season. This and the fall out with players seemed to show his frustrations surfacing. Since his career boomed at Porto (71 %), his win rate (58.8%) at his second Chelsea spell was by far his lowest. His first Chelsea spell was 67%, Inter was 62% and Madrid 71.9%. By now the third season syndrome where a Mourinho team would start to wobble was becoming more apparent. But it was different this time. Mourinho was shook.
Madrid knocked the swagger out of Mourinho. His confidence dented. In the Spanish dressing room he tried to erradicate the clicks. He dropped Iker Casillas, which in turn meant every game the substitute goalkeeper took his place on the bench Casillas was cheered and applauded from the home fans while Mourinho’s entrance was greeted with jeers and whistles. Barcelona handed him a five goal defeat. His tactics got more conservative and his hair more grey. Mourinho was used to being loved and adored by players and fans alike. Now he was being treated like a villan in his own club.
The second coming at Chelsea gave us a Mourinho that had his confidence dented. As soon as results went wrong, players showed any signs of being disgruntled or doctor’s not playing the role he wanted then we would see another side to him. A wounded animal is at its most dangerous when cornered. His trust damaged in Madrid by his own people turning on him. He is naturally a fighter, a winner and he would fight those trying to undermine him at Stamford Bridge. It led to the termination of his contract.
The following year he secured the Manchester United job. It seemed a match made in heaven. United were struggling since Alex Ferguson retired and Mourinho had a chance to bring a great club back to winning ways. And in fairness he did with Europa League success and League cup while finishing second in the league and back into the champions league.
But Mourinho wasn’t happy with various situations at the club which he felt were holding him back from progressing the team, mainly transfer dealings and players attitudes. He was right to be frustrated. This only became apparent when he left. The problem was how Mourinho dealt with it. Moaning and defeatist press conference’s were a regular occurrence. Champions League exit to Sevilla at the last-sixteen stage resulted in a surprise twelve minute rant from Mourinho defending his United career. Falling out with players, like at his end at Chelsea looked like self protection was most important. Mourinho was use to being showered in praise. His ego was damaged and he wasn’t coping well with anyone questioning his tactics or management skills. He was the special one after all.
After a 3-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, the famous three fingered rant demanding ‘respect’ as he had won more premier leagues than the rest of the managers put together in the league indicated the beginning of the end. He was struggling as a manager, his tactics were far too defensive for a club who demands attacking football. Chants of ‘Attack Attack’ from the United faithful let him know in no uncertain terms what style of football was desired at Old Trafford. His tactics hadn’t evolved and he had no answers, hence his frustrations and self protective comments. Other managers and coaches had surpassed him in every way. New hungrier less scared coaches were using more progressive tactics, better in game decisions and a visibly higher level of man management in public. From being the master tactician he was now becoming the master of lowering club expectations to give an illusion of success. This has continued at Spurs.
Harry Kane and Heung-min Son’s injuries have given Mourinho extra ammunition to the spin he puts out there while playing the media. It is now not possible for Tottenham Hotspur to be expected to beat anyone without a striker. That’s what Mourinho is telling us. The minute Harry Kane got injuried this was the narrative he was declaring. When Chelsea beat them recently he grumbled that they were missing their main striker Tammy Abraham but could replace him with a world cup winner in Oliver Giroud. There was time to bring in a striker in January to fill the void up front, even a loan move like Manchester United did. But Tottenham didn’t pursue anyone. Maybe this is Mourinho’s gripe? But he doesnt look or sound like he is going to transform Tottenham’s up and down season.
On the situation Spurs find themselves in he said “The situation is difficult. Nobody else in the Premier League or even in Europe is in such a difficult situation as we are in terms of injuries in specific positions.”
While following up with “It worries me a lot, the fact that the situation cannot be better. It can only get worse.”
And “We go together because next season we’ll smile because we’ll be in a very different situation.”
That sounds like a major catastrophe “Nobody in Europe is in such a difficult situation”. This is what Mourinho is best at these days, playing down expectations and buying himself time. The problem is that unless he stops for a minute and takes a good look at why he has let negativity spread throughout his thoughts and his philosophy it really doesn’t matter how much time he is given. He needs to think deep about where his footballing ideas stand now and how he can evolve.
Alex Ferguson did it all the time. He was open to new ideas, new coaches and new styles of playing and management. That’s why he added longevity to his career. Mourinho seems stubborn about all of the above and as mentioned he seems to be on the defensive constantly. He is running out of time and clubs. I really hope Jose Mourinho who seems a good man can embrace change, otherwise he will continue to slide down the managerial ladder with only memories of great days gone by to accompany him.