A wounded animal is a dangerous thing, and that is exactly what Jose Mourinho is right now. Unsurprisingly he is yet to comment on his remarkable sacking by Chelsea, he will do so soon and there is no doubt that it will be explosive. Just as explosive as his last interview as Chelsea manager in which he accused his players of “betraying” him after the 2-1 loss to Leicester City. Until then we can speculate as to what will be going on in the brilliant mind of the Portuguese tactician, one thing is for sure; revenge will not be far from his thoughts.
After Chelsea won the league by a margin of eight points last season (their fourth Premier League title and third under Mourinho) and won the League Cup, the talk was of Mourinho finally remaining at a club longer than three seasons. He was to build a dynasty at his beloved Chelsea. What a difference 6 months make. With Chelsea languishing in 16th position and looking a shadow of their former selves you can understand the logic in Mourinho’s dismissal. However a lot of the blame should also fall at the feet of the likes of Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard who have been little more than sub-standard this season. Abramovich may well end up regretting sacking the “Special One” for a second time.
Back in 2013 when Alex Ferguson’s successor was being chosen Mourinho seemed the perfect fit. The job famously went to David Moyes, who ended up being dubbed “The wrong one” in a cruel play of words on Mourinho’s famous nickname. According to reports Mourinho was so invested in the idea of taking the reins at United that he was reduced to tears when Ferguson informed him over the phone that it would be Moyes and not Jose who would replace him. Mourinho attempted to dispel this story when he returned to Chelsea by insisting it was the only job he wanted. While this was true in a way, Mourinho clearly had strong feelings for the club; it was simply a case of him telling the Chelsea fans what they wanted to hear. In truth it was a consolation prize for his preferred destination.
United fans will be in two minds about the possible appointment of Mourinho. Some will argue that his preferred style of football bears some similarities to the “philosophy” of Van Gaal. Mourinho places faith in an organised system, often focusing on defending a lead rather than seeking to extend it.
However, his teams are built around power and pace and seek a direct route to goal. This is something which is sadly lacking in Van Gaals possession obsessed tactics. Often when United are spraying pass after pass around the pitch it is difficult to see where any route to goal will come from. This cannot be said of Mourinho’s sides, even in their current state, Chelsea have goals in them. Another reason appointing Mourinho could be a shrewd move will be his motivation to get one over on his former employers. His feelings toward his former boss Roman Abramovich will be stronger than ever and his desire to get one over on the oligarch could well swing the momentum of this year’s title in favour of United. The fate of the title is more up in the air than ever, and despite their stuttering form United are still well and truly in the mix. Surprise leaders Leicester City, the “noisy neighbours” in the blue half of Manchester, Arsenal, and even Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are all legitimate contenders along with United. The forward line is an area where United are expected to reinforce even under Van Gaal this January, but Mourinho could use Ed Woodward’s cheque book very effectively. Arjen Robben is rumoured to be disillusioned in Munich, a reunion with his old Chelsea manager could prove to be an offer he can’t refuse. Mourinho was reportedly preparing to swoop for Atletico Madrid’s French striker Antoine Griezmann in January, his £40 million price tag would hardly put a dent in the Old Trafford war chest and what a signing he would be. Despite the calamitous end to Mourinho’s Chelsea regime, he is still one of the best managers in the game’s history and his name will attract players who may not be willing to risk playing under the erratic Van Gaal.
United’s next four fixtures will be vital for Van Gaal, anything less than four victories in their impending fixtures against Norwich, Stoke, Chelsea (that will be interesting!) and Swansea may not be enough to appease the frustrated Old Trafford faithful. United fans have lost all patience with the unattractive football played by their team under the Dutch man and his constant efforts to pass the blame citing the need for patience and belief in “the philosophy.” Some will feel that a club of United’s stature need to avoid becoming a “sacking club” and give the manager the time which was afforded to club legends Alex Ferguson and Matt Busby. However, it is time to face the cold hard truth, Van Gaal is not Busby. Van Gaal is not Ferguson. He has been in the job nearly 18 months now, twice the time Moyes was afforded, and things have not improved.
Rumours persist that Van Gaal’s relationship with the United team is just as strained as Mourinho’s was with the Chelsea squad in the weeks before his departure. This is hardly surprising given the way he treats players, after falling out with Victor Valdes simply dropping the distinguished Spanish goalkeeper from the first team wasn’t enough. He saw fit to humiliate Valdes, even going as far as to strip him of his club blazer and forbid him from attending club events. While Javier Hernandez made a shocking revelation about his own Old Trafford departure this week when he said Van Gaal told him he had a 1% chance of playing in his preferred position. This is all the more baffling given United’s struggles in the forward positions. Don’t get me wrong Van Gaal is a legend of the game. His achievements on the European stage, in Holland, Spain Germany and with the Dutch national team should not be forgotten. However his tactics seem to be outdated in the modern game, much like a certain Mr.Trapattoni who we’re all familiar with. I hope Van Gaal proves me wrong, but I won’t hold my breath.
There are two ways a potential Mourinho move to Old Trafford could take place. Van Gaal may be afforded till the end of the season to salvage his reputation. The more likely eventuality is a swift replacement with Mourinho. If United wait for the summer it may be too long, and I fear where the club will be if they do.
It was in Manchester where Mourinho announced himself as a top manager on the big European stage, albeit with the minnow opponents back in 2003. United fans won’t have fond memories of this one, after a 2-1 away loss to Porto United took the lead at Old Trafford and were set to progress 1-0 going into injury time. Costinha scored a dramatic equaliser and Porto’s young charismatic manager sprinted down the Old Trafford touchline joyously before sliding on his knees in celebration. Could we see similar scenes that the Old Trafford faithful will savour rather than despair at in the not so distant future? Time will tell.