Opinion has always been divided wherever José Mourinho is concerned, once regarded as the meticulous thinker atop of his class just as easily as he was the antithesis of the beautiful game, given his pragmatic ways.

From the perceived level of arrogance, alternatively viewed as the self-confidence central to etching his name in footballing history, the enigmatic Portuguese manager has seen his influence in the game wane in recent years.

In his pomp with a lenghty trophy haul through the last decade, life now sees the 55-year-old collect two reputation-ravaging sackings in just over three years after Manchester United called time on his tenure, this week. As the inquest into his time at Old Trafford begins, we take a look at just where it’s all gone wrong for “The Special One.”

The great appeal behind Mourinho has always been his ability to attract success, a trait demonstrated deep into his days in Portugal, right through to his latest stint in charge of the Red Devils, where he still managed to claim both the League Cup and Europa League trophies in 2017. It’s that sort of success that, within his own fan base at least, the Portuguese boss was able to silence claims of “boring” and “negative” football. To Mourinho, undoubtedly, the more pragmatic way of playing that’s come to attach itself to his image was merely a preference, a counter-argument to more expansive football which should, as any style of play, be cherished and protected. There is, as many people would have it, no right or wrong way to play the game on the night.

What Mourinho has come to find out, however, is that his style often does little to cater for the consumer-induced world of supporters expecting to be entertained each and every time they turn up at the turnstiles or lock in via their television screens. It’s important to remember that sport is entertainment-driven, served to inspire future generations. When you try to install a restricted ethos at the stadium coined as the ‘Theatre of Dreams’, no less, without the success to back your cause up, meanwhile being surrounded by far more expansive managers dominating the top spots in the Premier League, it’s easy to see why it turned so sour within the stands at Man United.

There lies the danger in every defensive or minimalist manager’s game - it’s largely reliant on results and glory. Take the latter away and there’s very little appetite from any club, let alone a well-established commercial brand like United, to deliver something so uninspiring to its paying fans and the world. The fans were vocal with their discontent, as were many former glories of the Red Devils and by the end of it, even one or two unsatisfied stars.

In survival mode, the ever-outspoken Mourinho turned on his tools, from bemoaning a lack of investment from the United board, irrespective of the £400-odd million already spent under his reign, to openly criticising the effort and desire of some of his key men in red. Engulfing himself in a recipe for disaster once more, be it a way of covering his back with excuses, or even aiming to squeeze more out of his players via the means of personal revolt, it seems to be a manoeuvre with little scope for success in this day and age, as Mourinho’s track record proves. 

Other old-school managers in is class, even at a way more muted level, have found themselves struggling and eventually out of the picture in the Premier League. Mark Hughes, Sam Allarydce, Tony Pulis, to name a few; all have been swarmed by the delight towards more father-like figures such as Eddie Howe, Jürgen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino and beyond, playing in turn a far better brand of football and revealing a very different reality to what football management once required within the confines of a dressing room.

Mourinho, of course, spills over from an era of hard-line managing, present as far as his former home under Sir Alex Ferguson with countless ‘hairdryer’ treatments and flying boots - ways that once served to fill his players with immeasurable confidence, productive anger and hunger through the good times that Porto and Inter Milan’s 2010 treble-winning side can testify in favour of.

Attempt to provoke a positive reaction out of a player in times of need and it just won’t have the same blanket effect as it did 15-20 years ago, however, yet Mourinho tends to find himself doing even worse each time, trading his slim dressing room-sized audience for that of the big world of football, via the media, to air out his player-directed critiques. Destructive words that often add greater pressure onto a player’s back and, in turn, doesn’t bode well with how susceptible they already are to negativity on social media. Some personalities may even rise to the challenge inadvertently set by their managers, but many more regress in discontent, or more worryingly, in a time where we all recognise depression in football as an issue, see their confidence shrink. This is not the role of person designed to get the best out of a group of players, yet it’s a refuge Mourinho has turned to each time during dire moments of his career before losing his job, as he continues to prioritse his own personal reputation above all else and showing little care for tailored man-management. It's counter-production in its purest form.

Where this latest Old Trafford debacle leaves the 55-year-old in the footballing panorama remains to be seen. From a personal perspective, Mourinho may well be itching to get back out amongst the elite, with interesting opportunities to restore some pride potentially just over the horizon. Former club Real Madrid are faltering in Spain, Niko Kovac’s Bayern Munich could be set to surrender their six-year Bundesliga dominance to Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile over in Milan, another ex-club in the form of Inter have also began to show signs of struggles.

What his reputation craves is for the same level of grappling success achieved at Porto, Chelsea and Inter to overwrite his recent shortcomings, but what it may demand is for him to place his unfinished business on ice in order to dedicate some time to reflect on the years gone by. Reinvent himself. Mourinho’s second spell with the Blues saw his team downsize from Premier League champions to bottom-half drifters in just a matter of months in 2015, whereas this season, Man United's defence has been ranked alongside the worst of outfits for goals conceded, despite the Sir Bobby Robson understudy’s strong affinity with a structured style. 

Rare were the games that the United fan base didn’t seethe at toothless attacking performances, void of any apparent method to achieve what they’d been so accustomed to seeing in the final third. The adaptations are plenty, both on and off the pitch, for the Portuguese manager to adhere to. Failure to do so may only prolong the constant paranoia, frustration and anger that has recently seen a once cerebral character panic and combust in the eyes of an ever-evolving world of football.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Comments (8)

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Nonsense.

Nuno Espírito Santo's philosophy is nearly identical to Mourinho's and in his FIRST season, he has taken Wolves to 7th place. Poch is also a Mourinho admirer.

The difference? Santo is fully backed as Wolves manager. In every transfer...

Nonsense.

Nuno Espírito Santo's philosophy is nearly identical to Mourinho's and in his FIRST season, he has taken Wolves to 7th place. Poch is also a Mourinho admirer.

The difference? Santo is fully backed as Wolves manager. In every transfer window, Mourinho did not get the players he wanted and this last summer was the worst of all. Woodward should have sacked him in the summer or backed him 100%. There is no middle ground in this sport.

Does anyone think that Guardiola and Klopp are forced to use players they don't want. Imagine of Manchester City had sided with Yaya Toure instead of Guardiola.

Interesting to me is that the moment he started benching Pogba, they sack Mourinho. They chose to side with the player that holds the record for most balls lost in a single match.

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Far be it for me to come out and criticize an article on this site. I always enjoy Portugoal content because it is different, informative and steers clear of the click-bait that is so prevalent in almost all media today. I also do not want to...

Far be it for me to come out and criticize an article on this site. I always enjoy Portugoal content because it is different, informative and steers clear of the click-bait that is so prevalent in almost all media today. I also do not want to appear to criticize the author, because I know first hand how time consuming and creatively challenging it is to produce something for the masses and then post it.

That said, I have some thoughts on this piece.

First and foremost, Mr. Ribeiro, this is well written, and I enjoyed the read overall. Having said that (to quote Larry David & Jerry Seinfeld), I don't feel this piece accurately captures two important factors:
1) What is currently going on at Manchester United Football Club- MUFC has Ed Woodward making most player acquisition decisions and they mostly are poor or poorly performing players. The Glazers know nothing about football and have little to do with the day to day, and this is evident in the club's lack of identity.

2) The nature of "media coverage" in England- regardless of results, over the last 3 seasons, every press conference was filled with baiting questions to Jose. The media does this with most managers, but it's clear that "happier" managers like Klopp get softball questions. With Jose it was "why aren't you playing Player A" or "is it true that you and player B hate each other"? Mourinho did not help by making many things public, but the media are piranhas.

Finally, Mr. Ribeiro, I also wanted to discuss your "good cop/ bad cop" analogy.

Placing Mourinho in a group with the likes of Mark Hughes, Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce is frankly, misleading. These managers are all known as mediocre at best. Then placing Pochettino and Klopp on some sort of pedestal when neither has won anything (well, Klopp won the Bundesliga, so theres that I suppose), is a bit facetious. Yes, their teams may be fun to watch, for the most part, but they still have won nothing to this point in time. Mourinho managed to win a Europa League with a squad of mostly mediocre players.

All this is not a defence of the Special One. I have always found him to be a complicated figure. His success, tactical accumen and approach at so many different clubs mean he is possibly the greatest manager ever. Yet, like Ronaldo, so many people are quick to jump on his faults rather than appreciate what he has done. It is true, he is arrogant and has said a lot of petty and unnecessary things about his contemporaries.

Ultimately, I feel no pity, if I was handed $22 million for being fired, I would be a happy man. But it is clear that Mou has lost that passion and fire that once drove him to success. He should choose carefully where he goes next, and try to rekindle some of that lost passion. That said, he is no where near finished, and deserves a bit more respect than he gets.

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Thank you @Chris and @Adam for the time taken to read this piece. It's quite a contentious and divisive topic, quite like the character himself, so I respect that opinions may be different.

I suspect both the United and Mourinho camp will look...

Thank you @Chris and @Adam for the time taken to read this piece. It's quite a contentious and divisive topic, quite like the character himself, so I respect that opinions may be different.

I suspect both the United and Mourinho camp will look to deflect the blame on themselves, particularly on the transfer front. Personally speaking, it's never something I've quite got behind with Mourinho, considering his appreciation for many of the deadwood players many quote today as being insufficient for him to take the club forwards - the likes of Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Marouane Fellaini, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Ander Herrera etc. all earning new deals under his reign.

I can understand why. All are very industrious players capable of taking Mourinho's demands on board. Contrarily, he doesn't seem to hit the same notes with flair players - Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne, Cristiano Ronaldo, Eden Hazard, Arjen Robben...the list is long and the squabbles are almost always very public. I do believe he plays on that with the media a little bit when things go wrong, being an authoritative figure in defence of his own reputation, which in turn attracts even more unwanted media attention. It seems to follow him wherever he goes and always proves to be highly problematic.

This piece was merely to outline what hasn't worked with Mourinho as of late, like openly criticising his players, the board and what have you. Tricks I don't think he should pull, at least not as often as he does. In terms of the Mark Hughes/Sam Allardyce comparison, they only relate as pragmatic disciplinarians who, as the trend would have it in England, are beginning to look rather old-fashioned next to others, even the aforementioned Nuno Espirito Santo and Mauricio Pochettino. Both play a better brand of football and are 100% dedicated to protecting the collective whenever they set foot in a press conference/flash interview, win, lose or draw.

There are disciplinarians out there who are hugely successful, Diego Simeone being one. There's space for it in football, but I do believe it requires some modifications to cater for the present day, the likes of which Mourinho is yet to undertake and perhaps should look to do now the Man United experience has gone south. The best thing Mourinho can do is reflect on recent times, refresh himself.

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Just wanted to clarify that just because I don't agree with all your points doesn't mean I didn't appreciate and enjoy the article. Quite the opposite. And there are some central points I agree wholeheartedly with.

Cheers.

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These points are all generally fine and valid, but I think it’s important to also note that the problems within the club are also deep rooted and extensive and did Mourinho no favours.

A recent article in the Times (UK) shed light on the...

These points are all generally fine and valid, but I think it’s important to also note that the problems within the club are also deep rooted and extensive and did Mourinho no favours.

A recent article in the Times (UK) shed light on the tension that existed between Jose, Woodward, the médical staff, communications department, etc. and they point to a number of internal systemic issues with the way United is run that make it no surprise that several different well-respected managers have been failed to return United to its past glories.

The price I’m referring to was written by Paul Horst and it’s worth a read given nuggets like this:

“By July, the battle lines had been drawn. There were two sides briefing against each other inside one club. That does not make for a harmonious relationship. When Team Woodward briefed that they were confident that Anthony Martial would sign a new contract, Mourinho countered, letting it be known that he was willing to let the Frenchman go. When Mourinho complained that he needed a centre half to avoid a catastrophic season, Woodward briefed that nobody was available at the right price.”

Other nuggets include that Woodward vetoed the signings of Boateng and Alderwiereld despite Jose repeatedly raising concerns that they needed reinforcements. Woodward’s vetoing of the Perisic signing, Jose’s claims that the communications department was a shambles, apparent evidence of a strangely close relationship between Raiola and Woodward, etc.

I’m not raising this to gloss over Jose’s faults of which their are many, but the club, Woodward and others deserve a lot of the blame as well.

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I wonder what impact Rui Faria leaving Mourinho's staff had. He had been working with him for 17 years. Mourinho backed him to be a great manager.

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Pogba and Sanchez are scum. A Sanchez and his Chilean compatriots by and large have always been. I'm glad they didn't qualify last year. As for Pogba, did anyone really expect anything else?

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Those players chose to act in a most despicable way, and I cannot understand how United fans can continue to support them.

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 “I was sent off and rightly so. I had to hug him [Jota], because he came back from injury and he’s worked very hard. Every time he’s on the football pitch he gives 100 per cent and I really appreciate it.”

Nuno Espírito Santo
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