Decision-making is a fundamental part of football. On the pitch, good decision-making can separate the great from the good. Every player is capable of making a poor decision here and there, not seeing a pass or selfishly trying to go it alone. At least with players, if they do make a poor decision, they usually have a short-term impact and its something you can move on from and rectify easier. Off the pitch though, decision-making at a board room level, will have a much deeper impact on the club, and one poor decision can take years to correct.
You hire a manager, back him in the transfer market, end up with a squad in the manager’s mold, results don’t go the right way, manger gets sacked, season written off. Now you have to hire a new manager and give him some backing in the transfer market, but he might not want some of the previous managers signings so you end up with an unbalanced squad, and you write off the first few months of his reign because his team needs time to gel. Despite all the talk and promises it never actually clicks together and you sack the manager. Hire a new manager who wants to clear out the deadwood the previous two chumps bought and build a squad from scratch all over again. It’s the “bad decision vicious cycle”.
It comes from poor planning and Man United seem like a club without a plan over the last couple of years. It’s become apparent that the previous plan was “let Sir Alex take care of it”, and since his retirement, it’s been a series of randomly made decisions without any clear thought process or long term strategy. The fact that United haven’t bothered to replace Brian McClair since he retired as Director of the Youth Academy over 6 months ago is an example of the lack of long term planning I’m talking about.
That brings me, in a roundabout way, to José Mourinho. Mourinho has been heavily linked with replacing Louis van Gaal, whose impending departure from Old Trafford seems inevitable at this point. I don’t really want to get into the merits for or against sacking van Gaal, that’s a different topic for a different day; here I want to talk about the hypothetical appoint of Mourinho, and why it just isn’t a good idea.
Supporting your club is meant to be about more than just winning trophies, and staring at the possibility of not winning something for 3 years has made some people think United should sell it’s soul for maybe a title and then back to square one of the rebuilding process in a couple of seasons anyway. Sure, most managers these days are short term appointments, the days of Ferguson and Wenger style reigns are behind us, but some managers will leave a team in a much healthier state when their time is up than others. Mourinho is the latter.
If a club has the luxury of doing so, it should always look to appoint a manager based around their own clubs ethos and traditions. United have made this mistake once already with van Gaal, where the club essentially parked up its own philosophy to accommodate that of the incoming manager, who was only ever going to be there short term to begin with. Mourinho doesn’t fit the bill for United for a number of reasons, mainly the style of football he will employ and the sheer levels of neglect he will show to upcoming academy products. Developing youth is a proud tradition at United, a practice that Mourinho has shown zero interest in over his managerial career. If United fans are disgruntled by their current playing style, Mourinho’s suffocating, strangling brand of football isn’t going to lighten the mood any time soon.
A great football pundit, Simon Winter, wrote an article not too long ago about Mourinho, and in referring to José’s treatment of Juan Mata he said;
“The Spaniard was exceptional for Chelsea for two seasons, but Mourinho wanted rid for what he believed were defensive deficiencies in Mata’s game. His best forward didn’t defend well enough. That’s Mourinho in a nut shell.”
And when referring to Mourinho’s relationship with then PFA Player of the Year Eden Hazard;
“Chelsea fans will pray that the fantastic Eden Hazard keeps his tackles per game stat high enough for Jose’s liking” – and we all know how that one went this season.
Those are just two examples from the last couple of years, where Mourinho has taken an exciting attacking talent, curbed their enthusiasm, and tried to remove their attacking flair. But there is a large section of Man United fans – who are screaming from the rafters for van Gaal to remove the shackles from his attackers – want this guy in as his replacement. It makes no sense to me.
There is also the inescapable fact that Mourinho just isn’t a likeable man. Yes, he’s box office and he is showbiz, but he is also a bully. And not in a footballing term “you got to bully your opponent” good way, a bully in a literal sense. Mourinho is more interested in his own stock and reputation ahead of the club he is managing. Whenever it goes right, it’s all down to him and when it goes wrong, its all down to this sneaky, disloyal, rats you call players. It’s no coincidence that his last two clubs have ended with him claiming to have been betrayed by the dressing room, amid claims of player mutiny and revolt. There will excuses for him, but he is the common denominator. I recently wrote an article on here saying that once the aura and magic wears off Mourinho, the players see through and all they see a pathetic, angry little bully, and it can’t be unseen.
Maybe the panic button getting pressed is down to the rampant speculation that Pep Guardiola has already agreed to manage Man City in the summer. A lot of United fans seem to want Pep as their first choice to replace van Gaal, and missing out on him, would then turn to Mourinho. Which brings me back to panic and a lack of planning. Pep and José are almost polar opposites, so the idea that if you miss out on Plan A, then Plan B is something completely different strikes me as poor planning. Its almost like a military operation having Plan A as “we send in one man, Splinter Cell style, he goes in, does what needs to be done, gets out. No casualties, no fatalities.” And Plan B is “Fuck it, lets just drop the nuke.” Dropping the nuke gets the job done too, but its loud, there is no hiding from it, and in the end you’re left with a radioactive wasteland that nobody can go near for a very long time.
United have been victims of their own poor planning over the last few years. There clearly isn’t much of a plan when you consider they gave David Moyes a 6-year contract because they believed in long term stability, then went the opposite direction by making his replacement a man who already had one eye on retirement. At lot of the current issues at United could be attributed to this lack of planning. I know plans can and will change, but good planning means you can hire a new manager without having to rip everything up and go back to the drawing board. Ed Woodward is on course for a rather unfortunate hat trick of poor decisions should he appoint the self-anointed Special One to the Man United throne, and desperate, panic fuelled decisions like this isn’t the correct long term strategy.