3rd Season Syndrome: Is The End Nigh For Mourihno At Man United?
When Manchester United decided to hire Jose Mourihno three years ago, there were muted concerns about the obnoxious baggage that sometimes accompanies the self-acclaimed “Special One”
Indeed his audacious claim of being the “Special One” is one that even the ultra-critics of the Portuguese find very difficult to controvert. The man is a proven winner-and the game of football is all about winning. That makes Jose Mourinho and football every inch a perfect match.
Having learned from coaching greats like Sir Bobby Robson and Louis van Gaal, the Dutch master in 1992 and 2000 respectively, Mourinho returned to his native Portugal to manage Porto in 2002.
There, a young Mourinho stunned the world by winning a UEFA Cup in 2003 and, even more remarkably, a Champions League title in 2004, altering the competitions narrative by taking an un-fancied Portuguese team straight to the trophy by brushing aside seasoned Champions League contenders like Manchester United.
Mourinho’s methods and personality are both rapid and infectious; as the lead striker in his title winning Porto side, Benni McCarthy recently recalled:
"He made you want to run through walls for him because he was so good, I remember he came to my room the night before we played Manchester United in the Champions League and he told me, 'I know your hold-up play is very good. But for this game, against Gary Neville and Wes Brown, you have to come short and spin behind because they hate to run toward their own goal.'"
McCarthy continued, "I scored two goals, and after the second, I went to the sideline and he said, 'Did you have a crappy game?' I asked him, 'How did you know?' and he just hugged me and said, 'It's my job.'"
Mourihno’s huge appetite for winning has seen him amass a trophy haul that many of his contemporaries can only dream of. But en route to attaining his enviable achievements, Mourihno has more than convinced the football world how much of an enigmatic fellow he is.
In the world of football, a little touch of enigma is somewhat attractive as some great talents have managed to prove. Zlantan Ibrahimovich,Mario Ballotelli and Diego Costa who ironically have all once sojourned under Mourhino’s tutelage have manage to thrive on the back of their often not so pleasant personalities. For Mourinho however, his enigmatic ways have effectively become the clog that abruptly halts his progression in recent managerial roles.
Ahead of his appointment as successor to Louis Van Gall in the Manchester United dugout, many had pointed to the implosion of his previous teams at Real Madrid and Chelsea, but obviously once again, his proven managerial prowess proved too much of an allure for the Manchester United hierarchy considering that a certain Pep Guardiola had checked-in next door at Manchester City Fc with one conspicuous intent-to put an end to Manchester United’s near-eternal supremacy.
Having enjoyed a debut season that was followed by a three-trophy haul, Mourihno who often appears tiny next to his players with an ever-graying head is surely having one of those familiar third season muddles that got him the sack at Real Madrid and Chelsea only a few years ago.
Is the third season curse set to strike again? The answer appears in the affirmative. The chaos is telling, and this has been the case since the team embarked on their pre-season tour of the United States.
First, it was a disjointed pre-season squad that had been grossly depleted by the absence of several players who had advanced to the latter stages of the world cup in Russia with their national teams.
Mourihno moaned and groaned about his depleted squad amidst a telling failure by the club to capture the many defensive reinforcements that the gaffer had identified in his player- recruitment wish list. This set the stage for a woefully unimpressive season that has left the club languishing in a distant 6th on the premier league log.
Having been pegged back by a not so ideal pre-season outing in the United States which was exacerbated even further by the failure of the Man United hierarchy’s inability or perhaps refusal to land any of the defensive recruits sanctioned by Mourihno, the Portuguese failed to help matters as he has become embroiled in frosty rancor with some of his key charges at the club. But while Mourihno is a top class manager with a knack for winning laurels, it is increasingly becoming obvious the worst of Mourinho often coincides with low moments when winning appears farfetched for the “Special One”
As one of his former players, Ricardo Carvalho once put it,“Jose [Mourinho] is used to winning. And when he doesn't win, it gets a little more difficult to live with that.” This apparent obsession for winning games and ultimately trophies means Mourinho is not often so pleasant when things are not heading his way-the coaching staff, players and even the media have had to bear the brunt of a seething Mourinho whenever times are bleak for the gaffer.
Despite being in his current role for more than two years Mourinho, 55, has refused to settle into an apartment whether bought or rented as is customary in such roles. Rather he has inexplicably opted to remain a long-term guest of the affluent Lowry hotel while his wife and children live some 200 miles away, in the London home they moved into during Mourinho's Chelsea days. They rarely come to Manchester.
In contrast, Pep Guardiola, Manchester City's Catalan coach and Mourinho's longtime nemesis, has embraced living in northern England, opening a restaurant in Manchester and settling in a city center apartment.
Another big loss that Mourinho is clearly struggling to come to terms with is the May departure of Rui Faria, Mourinho's longtime assistant who used to live at the Lowry Hotel with Mourinho. Haven raked in a hoard of trophies together for 17 years, Faria resigned citing a desire to spend more time with his young family and perhaps finally make his own way; Mourinho is reported to have told confidantes often how much he misses his bossom friend, Faria.
Mourinho and Man United have had a bumpy start to the season but one senses that the chaos and on-field struggles of the Manchester United team are greater than what is evident every time they take the pitch; and it is becoming ever likely that the morass that preceded his eventual implosion and consequent dismissal at Real Madrid and Chelsea may have reared its ugly head again-for a third successive managerial stint.
Despite his famed affection for his players which has been corroborated by most of his ex-players Mourinho seems to be struggling to replicate same at Manchester United, after managing to keep a serene dressing-room in his first year, it appears there is very little loyalty left for the Portuguese at United.
Young players such as Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have been constant targets for Mourinho, who earlier this year when asked about the duo’s tepid performance in place of Romelu Lukaku, replied: "For 10 months I get asked, 'Why always Lukaku? Why always Lukaku?' Now you know."
This ill-tempered outburst was then followed by a bickering spell that saw Paul Pogba stripped of his vice captaincy because of a perceived lack of commitment. Mourihno believed that the Frenchman had displayed “selfishness and lack of commitment” after he criticized his manager’s defensive approach to certain games.
A similar fate seems to have befallen club captain, Antonio Valencia, who recently drew the ire of his manager by reportedly liking an instagram post which had called for Mourinho to be shown the exit door. His apparent indiscretion has seen the Ecuadorian frozen from the first team for “fitness problems”, a claim he emphatically refuted after making a scoring appearance for his country on international duty.
On and off the field, Mourinho is gradually setting the stage for another disastrous third season, and like someone destined for the rocks, he is obstinately towing the same path that earned him the sack at Real Madrid and Chelsea.
For Mourihno, an arm of support from his bosom friend, Faria or the warmth of his family who live miles away in London may just be the defining touch that helps the “Special One” wither the brewing storm.
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