The clock is ticking for Jose Mourinho. He is doing more than just trying to prove that he is capable of winning a Premier League title with Manchester United. The Portuguese manager is fighting for is status as a top level manager who is capable of winning titles in the top five European leagues. Where will he go after his tenure eventually ends at Old Trafford? He is fighting an uphill battle, one that he will eventually lose given all the negative energy that he has surrounded the team with. There was once a time where he was one of the most sought after managers in the world. He became the first to win league titles is England, Italy, and Spain. If he felt like a team had come runs its course, there was always a host of European giants who would do anything to acquire his services. Jose has made a name off of delivering titles. Teams were willing to bring him in because he prided himself on winning today and did not care about the future. Fall out with Roman Abramovich in his first run at Stamford Bridge? No problem. Inter Milan have ambitions to dominate domestically and in Europe. Real Madrid are tired of his antics? Turns out that Chelsea are remorseful and willing to break the bank to bring him back. The Blues locker-room threw him under the bus? That’s alright, the biggest club in England are looking for a manager. But why does it feel like no other team will want to touch him with a ten foot pole?
Should Jose Mourinho leave Old Trafford at some point during the next twelve months, Ed Woodward will find a more than adequate replacement for him. Zinedine Zidane has already been linked to the club in the past week. So what big job can he expect next? He still has the résumé of one of the most esteemed managers in the world. That being said, his next job could be at a club that is below the elite tier. Mourinho would likely have to go to a club that is currently on a rebuild or a team that is looking to break into a European scene. This hypothetical club would certainly not have the financial capital to break the transfer record. None of the other top six teams in the Premier League would want him. Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid are definitely out of the question. Juventus and Napoli are more accustomed to a more entertaining style of football. Paris Saint-Germain may have never really been in the hunt for his services.
Mourinho may have to go back to square one and start from his roots in Portugal. From a certain point of view, it will be intriguing to see how the veteran manager back in the environment where he first made a name for himself. Here, he can maybe show the world what made him the “Special One.” He has had a habit of winning trophies wherever he has gone. And there is little doubt that this will come to an end. Since returning to England; he has won the Premier League, two domestic cups, the Europa League, made the FA Cup final and finished second in the league. Despite his successes with both Chelsea and United, he has a blemished reputation and job opportunities will be extremely limited should the situation in Old Trafford not change.
The next few months (assuming he is not fired) will be the most challenging of Jose’s career. For all his accomplishments across Europe, Mourinho has never managed to pull a team out of a slump. There has always been an upward trajectory in each of the teams he has joined. Be it European or domestic titles, success had always been the inevitable end game under Mourinho. And then, it rapidly disintegrates. He left Porto and Inter Milan on his own terms and is seen as a messiah for both clubs. Though in each of his other clubs, a bad run of games has always led to an ugly divorce. Before he could turn his clubs fortune around, his critics were more than vocal in shouting the words, “third season syndrome” from every rooftop.
Mourinho will be in unknown territory if he is to build a title-winning side from here on out. Often times when it comes to the greatest coaches, they turn from the hunters to the hunted. They are no longer seen as the emerging forces in the game but the ones who need to fend off the fresh bloods who seek to dethrone them. Mourinho will need to look up to the stands and learn from an onlooking Sir Alex Ferguson. He had to fend off Arsene Wenger and an Invincibles Arsenal side, Jose’s up and coming Chelsea side, and a Manchester City team that had billions injected into them. Most people forget that that Fergie and Manchester United went three consecutive seasons without winning the Premier League. United won a measly League Cup between the years 2003 and 2007 as the Invincibles and Roman Abramovich seeked to dethrone United’s dominance over England. Mourinho was the manager of the mid-2000s. He had turned Ferguson from the manager of decade to an archaic coach from an age long-gone. Ferguson defied his detractors and overcame the odds against him. The Scotsman had is most successful spell with the club from here on out as he won four more league titles (including three straight) and his second Champions League title. The likes of Scholes, Giggs, and Gary Neville who had lead United to unprecedented success became bit-part players. Fergie turned to buying younger players who had the hunger and feeling of knowing what is like to not be called champions. He broke the complacency in the squad to win more titles and regain their dominance. Fergie broke the bank under the new ownership of the Glazer family. Though, he and David Gill cunningly spent that money on players who would buy into the proudly wearing the badge of Manchester United. Can Jose learn to do the same and get Old Trafford back on track?
In terms of style, everyone knows what Jose Mourinho is about. There are three aspects of Jose’s philosophy that every team is guaranteed. Firstly, he brings in trophies to every club he has been with. While he has failed to win the Premier League or take United deep into the Champions League; the League Cup and Europe League are not nothing of value. He also brings a pragmatic style of football that has an emphasis on not giving away any chances. And lastly, be brings in his trademark shenanigans with the media. This can be highly entertaining when his teams are winning though it brings in waves of discontent when they are not. Stoking the fire may just be the one things that he cannot live without doing. The problem with Jose is that when difficulties emerge, he chooses to create enemies and engage with them instead of trying to fix the problem. Be it attacks toward the media, agents, former and current players alike; Jose is never short of people to lash out at. They all have the capability to undermine the project and feed the frenzy as the bus is headed towards the edge of the cliff. Ferguson had the benefit of the doubt when things did not go according to plan. He was given the absolute power to do as he pleased with the club. Nobody had the gall to take him on as he yielded full control.
Mourinho has been on the record in saying that after his dismissal from Chelsea, he saw how the role of a manager was changing. Players have evolved and taken the power away from the coaching staff. They are no longer receptive to criticism; public or otherwise. This has even been the case for some of Europe’s most elite managers. Jose was bang on in his remarks and somehow is yet to realize that this is the crux of the current problem he faces in the United locker-room. He has to deal with an ego the size of Paul Pogba’s who appears to be more loyal to his agent than the badge he has on his chest – the badge he has privilege to captain. This was an under talked about part for why Ferguson let the Frenchmen go on a free transfer to Juventus. Perhaps he was on to something. Maybe it is more of a hassle to deal with an ego of his size despite all the talent that it might come with.
Pogba’s World Cup performances have become a thorn in Mourinho’s side, though they say more about the player than manager. Didier Deschamps had his side play in the exact same manner that United does. He used Paul Pogba as part of a double pivot with N’Golo Kante, a role that the apparent Manchester United captain should be familiar with given that he has played in the exact same position with Nemanja Matic. Organized, agile and a rugged defensively; opponents are lulled to sleep as they can barely manage to break their lines before facing a vicious counter attack led by proven goal scorers.
Paul Pogba was a fundamental part of France’s World Cup victory. Mourinho and Deschamps are alike in demanding discipline from the star midfielder. With his national side, Pogba deferred to his role. He played as a deep lying No. 6 – an outstanding midfielder who controlled the game from the middle of the park with his infinite passing range and quick first step to burst into the final third. Another player who has issues with Mourinho is Pogba’s compatriot, Anthony Martial. Maybe we could have seen the best from this dynamic winger with another manager or team. Nevertheless, neither player justified their respective price tags that when combined, add up to nearly £150 million. The return on the Glazer’s and Ed Woodward’s investment is yet to be seen.
Mourinho is too old to change. And given what he has achieved, it may be too much for his employers – current or future – to ask him to alter his winning formula. He has always been appointed by teams for the here and now. That is the exact reason why championship aspiring executives and teams have hired him in the past. He has never had to worry about tomorrow because there were always a flock of teams that were dying for his expertise. For the first time in his managerial career, that might have changed.