Mourinho and the battle for relevance

Little over 12 years have passed since José Mourinho’s emphatic arrival at Stamford Bridge.

His pedigree was undisputed having taken Porto to UEFA Cup and Champions league successes in consecutive seasons. Cerebral tactician, ruthless pragmatist and inherent winner – José arrived to media fanfare in abundance.

José had broken the mold for managers in Europe.  Despite never having played the game professionally, he became the most revered of his peers. His journey from humble translator at Barcelona to serial trophy winner captured the hearts and minds of the media and public alike.

Back then Mourinho was a refreshing addition to the Premier League; his ability to captivate the press was unprecedented. A charismatic and witty individual, who could entrance a press room by merely comparing player recruitment to shopping for eggs. Check out the link below.

Successful spells at Inter Milan, Real Madrid and a return to Chelsea followed.  However, controversy shrouded many of the on field successes at these clubs. The unsavory eye gouging of Tito Vilanova and the acrimonious bust up with Chelsea club doctor Eva Carnerio, combined with petulant media outbursts left a sour taste in the mouth of many.

In December 2015, Connor Daly wrote of the need for Mourinho to find a new narrative.

Ostensibly, José and Manchester United are a perfect match – both huge names with winning entrenched deeply in their DNA.

A perfect start with 3 wins in 3 games suggested that success was on the way back to Old Trafford.  In Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he secured the most coveted of European football’s free-range eggs. The new narrative began to take shape.

A turbulent period has since ensued; compounded by a 4-0 defeat upon returning to Stamford Bridge, serving to add further scrutiny to his fledgling United career.

The conservative tactics deployed to gain a point at Anfield last week, were much maligned by fans.

Many suggested that Mourinho had been left in the wake of managers such as Guardiola, Pochettino and Klopp. All of who embrace an high octane, tactically flexible and attacking brand of football – a far cry from the ultra conservative approaches offered by Benitez et al almost a decade ago.

Arguably Mourinho has done little to ease the burden of the public gaze. Accusing Antonio Conte of trying to humiliate him has become indicative of the petulant acts of which many are beginning to grow weary.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing José is not that of restoring the halcyon title winning days to Old Trafford. Rather it lies in re-establishing himself as being relevant in a footballing landscape, which values playing style over ruthless pragmatism.

Time is a commodity scarcely afforded to a manager. Given the track record and CV he possesses it would be a foolish man who bets against José turning it all around.

Ed Woodward and his fellow executives at Manchester United will know entirely what the ‘José Mourinho experience’ entails. Depriving him of sufficient time to become relevant and restore the glory days to Old Trafford would be much akin to killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

*Video of Mourinho comparing player recruitment to shopping for eggs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgGE3VH_LpE