As Man U aura fades, Mourinho can make club box office again
ABS-CBN Sports on May 25, 2016 11:21 AM
ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer
LONDON (AP) — The stability Alex Ferguson fostered over more than 26 years at Old Trafford has eroded in the three years since his retirement. Manchester United often seems like just any other team, shorn of its aura of superiority and orderly calm while churning through managers.
United was just a footnote in the Premier League story last season, even when Louis van Gaal's team was winning, due to the insipid football that was a turn-off for even loyal fans.
It will be hard to take your eyes off United once Jose Mourinho is installed as the third manager in three years, as is expected imminently. With a combination of mystique and menace, Mourinho is managerial box office. Few players can match his pulling power.
It seemed inevitable that a coach with the brashest of personalities would one day be employed by a club seemingly fixated with ensuring there is a steady flow of stars in the squad. And not just because so many players have been delivered in recent years by Mourinho's agent, Jorge Mendes.
Mourinho wooed the Old Trafford leadership by giving interviews to the in-house TV channel, but United turned to David Moyes to succeed Ferguson in 2013.
Now both Mourinho and United are damaged goods. Both need to prove they are still at the pinnacle of their football powers.
United has lost the fear factor on the field. Van Gaal delivered what Moyes failed to do by winning the first post-Ferguson trophy.
But collecting the FA Cup was not enough to make the Glazer family, who own the club, believe the 64-year-old Dutchman could take the team to another level. Not when United finished fifth in the Premier League to miss out on the Champions League, despite more than $350 million being spent on players during Van Gaal's two-year reign.
The wisdom of much of the spending has been questionable. Executive vice chairman Ed Woodward, with his financial and commercial background, has had to deal with some testing transfer windows since replacing David Gill three years ago.
Mourinho will be hoping to benefit from similar investment as he inherits a team playing on Thursday nights in the Europa League. There is little more humiliating for a coach who has won the Champions League twice — with Porto and Inter Milan.
"I don't want to win the Europa League," Mourinho said at the start of his second Chelsea stint in 2013, dismissing predecessor Rafa Benitez's success in Europe's tier competition.
Mourinho should feel fortunate to be back so quickly in employment in England. In some walks of life, facing legal action for publicly denigrating a doctor could be a barrier to walking into a top job.
Former Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro is pursuing a discrimination case against the London club and taking legal action against Mourinho after the manager publicly admonished her ability to carry out her duties on the first day of last season.
It took Mourinho's feuding to a new level and set in motion the events that led to his Chelsea downfall for a second time as the club blamed him for the "palpable discord" within the squad.
Chelsea was a force in tatters when Mourinho left, despite cruising to the Premier League title months earlier. The team would go on to finish even below Van Gaal's side, in a humiliating 10th place.
Mourinho will be arriving at United with the bar initially set low — by his standards — for success next season. Just making the top four will be an improvement. But given the enhancements to the squad he will inevitably be allowed to make in the summer transfer window, Mourinho should be delivering silverware too.
Mourinho is likely to sign a three-year contract, but maintaining the faith of the club's leadership beyond that timeframe would be a career first.
Can the former Real Madrid coach stick around without splitting the club and pursuing public battles with officialdom and the media? With former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola taking charge this summer at Manchester City, goading his foe might be too hard to resist.
Winning without some sort of feud just doesn't appear to be in Mourinho's DNA. In that regard, Mourinho seems the perfect heir to Ferguson — three years after the great manager retired.
Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports