There is a quote in the book ‘Jose Mourinho: The Secrets Behind His Success’ in which Alex Ferguson says of the Portuguese: “I look at Jose and I see myself reflected in many of the things he does.”
Having spent three torturous years trying to replace Ferguson – the David Moyes experiment failed miserably and the idiosyncratic Louis van Gaal proved to be another embarrassing flop – Manchester United are expected to this week appoint the man who arguably most resembles the obdurate Scot.
How influential Ferguson has been in United’s pursuit of Mourinho may never be disclosed, but, in choosing the 53-year-old, United appear to have sought Fergie 2.0
On the face of it, Van Gaal ticked many of the boxes too – a glittering CV and an ego capable of handling the pressure of managing one of the biggest clubs in the world.
What he did not possess, however, was a track record of success in England. Would he have achieved it had he been given a third year at Old Trafford? On the evidence of the first two, no.
Van Gaal’s rigid philosophy and the inconsistent results were widely accepted in his first season as he met his remit and returned the team to the Champions League after the horrors of a seventh-place finish under Moyes.
But a meek exit from the competition and numerous underwhelming league performances this term meant a return to Europe’s top table was an impossibility. Saturday’s FA Cup final success over Crystal Palace will at least give him something to cherish but the announcement of his exit just two days later was far from a surprise.
Nor is the identity of United’s first choice to replace him.
There will undoubtedly be many who feel ‘The Special One’ is not the right fit on or off the pitch, but getting back to winning on a consistent basis is now a priority if a prolonged Premier League title drought is to be avoided.
The main concern among the United support lies with Mourinho’s off-pitch antics, after he too suffered a miserable 2015-16 campaign, which was terminated in December as Premier League champions Chelsea wallowed in the bottom half.
Regularly clashing with referees and the media, Mourinho also fell out with former Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro, who pursued legal action against him and the club, while Stamford Bridge technical director Michael Emenalo said there was “palpable discord” between the manager and his squad towards the end of his second spell.
The Old Trafford decision makers, though, will need no reminding that Ferguson was no saint.
He regularly incurred the wrath of other managers, the Football Association, referees and journalists – while there were countless showdowns with senior players: David Beckham, Jaap Stam and Ruud van Nistelrooy to name but three.
The difference between his situation at United and Mourinho’s at Chelsea was that the club backed his decisions to the hilt – player power would never have been allowed to win the day in Manchester in the way it has done during the Roman Abramovich era in west London.
Ferguson’s results on the pitch brought him supreme authority off it and Mourinho will now demand the same.
United wrongly passed up their first chance to appoint him in 2013. The Portuguese had launched a charm offensive when he visited Old Trafford as his Real Madrid team knocked the Red Devils out of the Champions League and his Santiago Bernabeu exit coincided with Ferguson’s retirement.
Ultimately, United opted for what they thought would be a safe pair of hands in Moyes and what they hoped would be another long and stable reign, while Mourinho became ‘The Happy One’ as he re-joined Chelsea for a second spell, claiming he wanted to build a dynasty.
Despite a Premier League title in his second year, Chelsea’s desire for quick fixes meant that was never going to be achieved.
Following his departure from Chelsea, Mourinho – perhaps sensing other big jobs could soon be in the offing – made it clear he was not planning a lengthy break from management. A statement from his agency read: “During his career, Jose has sometimes chosen to leave a club, but only at Chelsea has the club decided that he should leave.
“He will not be taking a sabbatical, he isn’t tired, he doesn’t need it, he is very positive, and is already looking forward.”
Mourinho’s freshness will be fully tested as he begins the laborious process of overhauling an expensively assembled, yet sub-standard United squad.
It promises to be a close-season of change at Old Trafford, but one the powerbrokers will hope results in a sense of familiarity: the familiar sense of success enjoyed by both Ferguson and Mourinho.
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