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The 'Special One' no longer special?

Jose Mourinho sacked after three years with Manchester United

by Tom Molnar

image courtesy of Aleksandr Osipov via Google

On December 18th, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was sacked after a poor start to the 2018-2019 season. Mourinho signed to a three-year contract with the English club back in 2016 with the hopes of a Premier League title, something a Manchester United manager has not done since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013. Despite leading the side to League Cup and Europa League titles in his first season, performances in the English Premier League made the sacking a long-time coming. The Red Devils are currently sixth in the table and 19 points behind league leaders Liverpool, who they recently lost to 2-1. 

A short and quite disappointing tenure, how does his time in Manchester affect his managerial career as a whole? It is definite that this stop will be ranked his worst in terms of success and spending. Although he has been controversial over the years, the Portuguese man is regarded as one of the greatest managers of all time, with successful tenures at Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, culminating 25 major honours throughout. In his first season with Chelsea, he won the League Cup as well as the Premier League title, which was retained the following season. He then guided the club to a FA Cup and League Cup double in his final season, before leaving for Inter Milan in 2008. His tenure with the Italian side was short but outstanding, ending with him being awarded the first ever FIFA World Coach of the Year due to the treble win in his second season: Serie A, Coppa Italia and the Champions League. He then joined Real Madrid in 2010, winning the Copa del Rey in his first season against arch-rivals Barcelona. With this victory, Real Madrid ended an 18-year drought in the competition, as well as earning the side’s first trophy since their 2007-08 La Liga title. The following year, the side won La Liga and Mourinho became the fifth coach to have won league titles in four countries. 

Mourinho’s time with Real Madrid created some of the most thrilling matches of the modern era, especially against rival Pep Guardiola and his former side Barcelona. However, Mourinho called the 2012-13 season “the worst of my career” after losing in the semi-final of the Champions League as well as a loss in the Copa del Rey final. Mourinho then left the Spanish side to return to Chelsea in hopes of leading the side to similar success as previously. He considered his first season back as a transitional one, slowly moulding his squad into a championship side. This was evident from significant players being dropped, like Juan Mata, who was Chelsea’s player of the season the previous two seasons. This controversial manner of managing paid off with a victory in the League Cup as well as a Premier League title in his second season. Mourinho’s poor start to the next season ended with his early sacking in December and finished off his second tenure with the English side. Manchester United then picked him up for the 2016-17 season with high hopes. His first season saw him lead the side to a victory in the FA Community Shield and, more significantly, a Europa League title. Finishing second in the Premier League, it was thought that Mourinho could lead the club one better, but his second campaign saw a drop in performance and no trophies to show for it. With a horrendous start to the 2018-19 season, it was clear that the great manager was done in Manchester.

Jose Mourinho is considered one of the finest managers of the modern era, but his controversies cannot be overlooked. He is known for his interesting press conferences, often making blunt and quirky comments as well as speaking his opinion. It seems that his time with both Chelsea and Real Madrid ended in “mutual agreement”, despite there being a clear hidden factor. For example, the Portuguese man had disagreements with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, which lead to his departure in 2008. His first managerial post was with Portuguese side Benfica in 2000 but Mourinho resigned after only nine league games because of a row with the club’s newly appointed president. At times, he has been seen on the wrong side of the sport, being fined multiple times for incidents on and off the pitch as well as a case of eye gauging a Barcelona assistant coach. Despite his great success, he has not stuck with a club for more than four years at a time. As a manager, his win ratio went down drastically since leaving Real Madrid, going from an average of 72% to 58%, evidently showing his career on the down slope. Is it possible that the ‘Special One’ could be no longer special? After numerous controversies, would a club be willing to take him on board knowing it will go south after one or two seasons? The evidence shows this pattern to be true, so for any club it is a risk. Major clubs might target him, but certain elite players would consider not signing if Mourinho is the manager because of his history with player development. He shies away from the youth in clubs, which is clearly seen with Manchester. French duo Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial were marginalised and not played by Mourinho, impeding their progress with the side. During his time with Manchester United, nearly £400 million was spent on 11 players despite no change in style or success. This is something clubs will have to consider if they want to sign Mourinho. 

As for Manchester United, former player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as caretaker manager until the end of the season. The 45-year-old spent 11 seasons at Old Trafford, scoring the winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final. The club hopes he can carry the side forward until the end of the season as the side currently stands at sixth. The players will be under some pressure to perform at a high level over the next period and, if they don’t do well, certain names could be dropped. The likes of Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Marouane Fellaini all could be facing heat in the next month. It will be a transition for the English side but, if they can make the top five, Solskjaer could be kept as permanent manager. For now, all that is certain is Jose Mourinho is out and it could be the end for the one dubbed the ‘Special One’.


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