Jose Mourinho; building the long-term empire at Old Trafford

There are many different characteristics that one could attribute to Jose Mourinho, all ranging from positive to negative but the one characteristic that could never have been given to him is one of being a long-term builder. Mourinho has been one of the most successful managers of the last fifteen years where he has always won with every club that he has managed – taking Porto to the incredible heights of winning the UEFA Cup and the Champions League in back to back years, winning numerous titles with Chelsea in both spells, achieving the treble with Inter Milan and winning the league with Real Madrid against Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona side.

There is no doubt that Mourinho will be looked back on as one of the greatest managers in the history of the sport but there will always be a black mark on his name when this conversation comes up as he was never one to stick around at a club and build a team, integrate youth players and build a true dynasty of his own. He certainly won’t be known like Sir Alex Ferguson who was capable of building multiple successful teams at Manchester United and even Arsene Wenger, for better or for worse, has built many different Arsenal teams in his own image.

Perhaps it is fitting though as in many ways, Mourinho resembles everything that modern football has become – he’s always been a results first manager in an industry where the vast majority of managers do not have the time to build their teams in their own image, if the results are not there, they’ll quickly find themselves in the unemployment line searching for another club. Football is a result first sport and that is everything that Mourinho is and always has been. A lot of times, it may have been understandable as well, when he was at Porto and Inter Milan, he left them as better opportunities came knocking on his door in Chelsea and Real Madrid. Whereas with the two latter clubs, chairman interference and his own personality were the downfalls that cost him his job at those two respective clubs.

And yet, something oddly feels different with Mourinho at Manchester United. Mourinho’s short-termism potentially cost him the job all the way back in 2013 after Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Sir Bobby Charlton, a club legend and a highly influential member of the board, was not a fan of neither Mourinho’s style of play nor the way in which he built his teams, which lead to the club disastrously hiring David Moyes as Ferguson’s successor. But Mourinho appears to be buying into the ideals of United and appears to be building for the long-term at the club.

Sure, he has bought players that will be useful for the short-term in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Nemanja Matic but the majority of the players that he has brought in are players who are 24 or under years of age. Paul Pogba, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Romelu Lukaku are all players who will be a part of United for years to come and will play a critical role in the spine of the team. This is on top of the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, and Jesse Lingard being involved in the first team as well.

The Portuguese manager has always been known for defensive counter-attacking football but this has not been the case during his spell at Old Trafford. United have looked to take control of the games against their opposition, they have looked an entirely different team to ones under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal. United have gone out and played attacking football last season and the start of this season, albeit with a lack of goals coming from poor finishing which there is nothing Mourinho could do about that. But his clear changing of his style of play is a welcome sign to see at Old Trafford, it shows that Mourinho ultimately buys into the values of the club and is willing to go along with them.

Whether Mourinho does stay at the club for the long-term or not is entirely up to him. The club would love nothing more than to have another long-term manager and Mourinho himself would love the idea of being the first manager in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson period to steady the ship and bring the club back to the dominance that they once had under Sir Alex Ferguson. If Mourinho can do this is, once again, entirely up to himself. He is not going to find himself in dispute with the clubs owners like at Chelsea or Real Madrid, if he can lose his own toxic personality that starts to creep up on him in those third seasons, things will go swimmingly for him.

This is a job that he has always wanted and it’s an opportunity for him to cement his own legacy, this can prove that he is one of the greatest managers in history and one who can plan, build and execute a long-term plan that can be sustained for five years or more. Mourinho does have a long way to go in order to achieve this, but it does appear that he wants to stay at the club for the long-haul and that he is working on rebuilding United back into the club that they were under Sir Alex Ferguson, if Mourinho is able to achieve this, it would be arguably one of the greatest achievements of his career.

Written by Stephen Fox


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