The Inconspicuous Decline Of The Special One

Hailed by himself as the special one upon his arrival in the premier league as manager of Chelsea in 2004, Jose all but cemented his place in the history books of Chelsea and England as a whole, winning two consecutive premier league titles. Upon a reported breakdown in relationship between Mourinho and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, Mourinho lost his job in 2007 and joined the ship to Italy to take charge of Inter Milan. In Italy, he performed transformed a certain underperforming Inter Milan into an unbeatable side, winning the Champions League with Inter Milan as well as winning the Scudetto on two consecutive occasions. In search for more silverware and greater challenge, he jumped ship again but this time, to Spain to lead the Galacticos. His tenure in the dugout at Real Madrid became the turning point of Jose’s largely illustrious career.

Largely regarded as unsuccessful in Real Madrid, Mourinho went through a lot of turbulent and stormy times, especially in his final season. His tried and tested principles of success were challenged and he all but became a laughing stock to his rivals. He is a man never short of controversy but his actions in Madrid were a bit out of line. From poking Tita Vilanova’s eye to instigating Sergio Ramos and Pepe to getting yellow cards in a Champions League game, Mourinho was always living on the edge at Madrid.

Mourinho uncharacteristically had a series of public arguments with big players such as Iker Casillas and Cristiano Ronaldo. According to Jenson (2013) in The Telegraph, Frank Lampard said “he was in awe of the way Mourinho protected his players, especially in the media” but that trait of Mourinho disappeared in Madrid. He publicly criticized Marcelo for making a slow recovery from a broken foot and lambasted Pepe for having an operation on his ankle at the end instead of at the start of the mid-winter break. He reportedly argued with Cristiano in the dressing room at the end of a match against Valencia and infamously said of Benzema, “I do not have my dog to go to hunting with so I will have to take my cat” in a game in which he had been forced to pick the French marksman. In an incident which summed up the meltdown at the club at the end of Mourinho’s reign, Pepe who was left out of the Copa Del Rey final came down from the stands where he was watching the game to sit on the bench during the aftermath of Mourinho’s sending off from the bench. The situation at Madrid had escalated into an all hell would break lose situation.

Mourinho returned to the Bridge in 2014. Many thought he had learnt his lessons but this was not to be the case. In the same manner he departed Real Madrid, he also departed Chelsea: reported fall out with players, loss of the dressing room, fights with the media and singling out as well as blaming players for losses. Chelsea were languishing in the sixteenth position in Mourinho’s last but short season, the players were disunited and their body language resembled students who were forced to attend lessons they did not like. This led to a decline in form of Eden Hazard and made Mourinho’s    tenure at Chelsea, the most disastrous in his largely distinguished career.

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Manchester United parted ways with “THE PHILOSOPHER” Loius Van Gaal signed Mourinho on a three year contract.  Mourinho has proven over the years to be a man who loves and surmounts challenges. Well, we can banter about the fact that Mourinho, despite his failings in the premier league in his first season at Manchester United, ended up winning three trophies thus the Community Shield, the Capital One(now Carabao)Cup and the Europa League. Bar Mourinho’s excellent standards, these trophies were just a consolation to their abysmal performance in the premier league where they finished in 6th position, a staggering twenty four points behind his newly found nemesis, Conte’s Chelsea, won a paltry figure of only eighteen games and drew a staggering figure of fifteen games. Despite his continuous murmuring about Conte’s Chelsea been very defensive last season, United still finished with a goal difference of +25 whereas Chelsea finished with a goal difference of +52. More catching to the eye is Mourinho’s albeit dismal records against the top five sides since taking charge of the Red Devils. In fifteen games against these opponents in the league, Mourinho has led United into four wins, five draws and six losses. Only one out of the three wins he has achieved so far has been away from home. For a manager who often down the years comes out of the big games with newspapers baring the headlines, “Another Tactical Master class From The Special One”, these stats are quite an indictment of his big game reputation. Surprisingly, he has  won just one league trophy in the past six seasons.

Before this season began, most pundits made reference to Jose Mourinho’s repeated second season success chalked in all the teams he has previously managed as a factor in rating United as favorites for the title. United began the season in blistering fashion as they rubbished a largely disorganized West Ham side in a rare display of positive football by beating them by four unanswered goals. Mourinho’s United kept on brushing aside their opponents with relative ease until a crunch encounter with Liverpool at Anfield. Heading into the game at Anfield, Liverpool had won just one of their previous seven matches while Mourinho’s side had won nine of their opening ten matches and scored four times in six of those ten games. However, in typical Mourinho style, he set his team to play without audacity despite the attacking talent at his disposal and settled for a draw. That tactical tweak against Liverpool according to Martin Keown was a catalyst for United’s diminishing returns as the premier league progressed. United went on to lose the following weak against Huddersfield F.C. Keown said “Then, United were flying. They were a juggernaut at full speed. All of a sudden, Mourinho pulled up the handbrake”. Unless some unforeseen cataclysmic reaction occurs at the Cityzens, it is all but settled that Guardiola’s Manchester City are the champions-elect. It is more likely that United will not win the league neither are they fancied for Champions League glory. This leaves the FA cup to be up for grabs though the other premier league big boys are still in there too.

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Samuel Eto’o, a member of Mourinho’s treble winning side at Inter Milan has also had his say about his former manager. According to 101 GreatGoals, Eto’o observed that Jose did change. Eto’o was quoted to have said “I knew someone exceptional at Inter. At Chelsea, it was really difficult but he has further evolved. Today, you have to want to play football, to play your men. We cannot continually defend. Football is not that. Listen, I have nothing against Jose. He is capable of taking someone and telling them you are the best and he will make them have a very good match but football evolves”.

He has tried to brand Guardiola’s city as a team that have bought their success instead of toiling for it. That is a very shocking claim to make considering the fact that Mourinho has spent 307 million pounds on player recruits since joining Manchester United and is almost certain to land Alexis Sanchez. According to The Sun, Mourinho tops the list in terms of money spent on transfer fees as he has spent 1.1 billion pounds throughout his stellar coaching career. It is therefore a nonstarter to play the victim in order to steal the light away from Guardiola’s hard work on the training pitch.

He also hit the headlines this season for his infamous spat with Chelsea’s boss Antonio Conte which was largely regarded as a diversionary tactic to shift attention from his team’s underwhelming performances which worked to perfection. Realistically speaking, Mourinho should be hitting the headlines as a result of his team’s excellent performances on the field of play but not as a result of his gimmicks during press conferences.

Mourinho exposes a lack of dynamism in the way he sets his teams out to play and at the moment, there is a stark contrast between the irresistible and exhilarating free flowing football being served by Manchester City and the rather dour fare on the offer at Manchester United.

Mourinho has really fantastic talents at his disposal and at times, I feel that he restricts and holds them back too much. Mourinho needs to give his players more freedom to express themselves on the field of play and after Paul Pogba’s scintillating display against a Stoke City side whose boat is sailing on turbulent water, I hope that such an attacking display preludes a platitude of attacking football from United just like we saw in the earlier parts of the season as we await that mouthwatering clash against Mourinho’s newly created nemesis, Antonio Conte.

Manchester United has definitely underwhelmed so far this season as they find themselves trailing Manchester City by 12 points and with a manager who has successfully broken milestones in his second season at every club, eyebrows have to be raised.                                                           

Baiden Gideon.

(gidbaide@eonlineghana.com)

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