News that José Mourinho has reportedly signed a pre-contract agreement to join Manchester United, with the former Chelsea manager due up to £15m in compensation if he is not appointed by the club by 1 June, may have pleased some Manchester United fans desperate to see Louis Van Gaal leave Old Trafford, but to outsiders it is simply bizarre.
It has been reported that the contract reads “If United do not sign the final contract [with Mourinho] before 1 May, they must pay £5m; if by 1 June he’s still not signed, they shall pay another £10m. May is the key, because it’s the month in which the vast majority of the signings of players are closed and the plans formed.”
Does such a move show that Manchester United is desperate to find a coach who can restore the club to the consistent success of the Ferguson era? The truth is money is not the answer. Look how many years it took from Sir Matt Busby winning the League title until Sir Alex Ferguson did. Take a look at Liverpool, how many managers they have had, how much money they have spent and how long they have had to wait to lift the title again.
A warning sign for Manchester United is that Mourinho is a manager who likes to make the headlines rather than his team.
One thing that this pre-contract has highlighted is that there would appear to be a very real power struggle at the club. It appears that there is a rift between the football people at the club, headlined by Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton, and the money men, led by executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward, the man who has has overall responsibility for the operation of the club.
It would appear that these two factions disagree on Mourinho’s fit with the club. One can only speculate that Woodward was so worried about the threat of losing Mourinho or that he would be unable to sway Sir Alex and Sir Bobby across to his way of thinking that he unilaterally signed Mourinho to such a pre-contract agreement.
If as reported those extra couple of clauses in the agreement would hamstring his opponents in the boardroom. In essence they ensure that if Woodward is overruled on his choice of manager, it would cost United an outrageous £15 million. With a leader who is prepared to go to such lengths to get what he wants is Mourinho a good choice, after all he is a manager who likes to get what he wants. It looks like a train smash waiting to happen and would justify the reservations held by Sir Alex and Sir Bobby.
At Chelsea Mourinho was renowned for his attention to detail, but where he lost his players was when he hung them out to dry to save his own reputation. Even while not in a job Mourinho has still been keeping his name in the press. He went to Shanghai in January to go shopping, he gave his views on the Portuguese Presidential election. To be fair though he has not been talking too much about football, although his management have been working hard to shoe-horn him into Old Trafford.
Manchester United were foolish if they did sign such a contract, as if they looked there have not been a rush of clubs looking to sign the self anointed “Chosen One” as their next manager.
The question is why would a club like Manchester United sacrifice all the traditions that have made the club what it is to pander to a man fast becoming ‘the forgotten one.’
If we look at the big clubs in Europe none turned to Mourinho. Bayern Munich opted for Carlo Ancelotti to replace Pep Guardiola; possibly Mourinho’s comment that the kit man could win the Bundesliga came back to haunt him. Zidane, a coach with no top flight experience was given the role at Real Madrid. Paris Saint-Germain is a club his management feel would suit their client, but Laurent Blanc does not look like moving on in the foreseeable future.
If you look at the possibility of a national team job, not many Football associations would want their national coach to be grabbing the headlines ahead of their national team. Certainly the players in that team are unlikely to welcome such a situation. Would Mourinho be happy working intermittently with a squad of players? One suspects not, that he thrives on the day-today involvement.
Mourinho thrived on confrontation, but to many close to the game they feel his style of management has had its day. They may well be right. Mourinho won six league titles and two Champions League titles in his first eight seasons as a manager. He has won only two league titles since 2010.
Manchester United may well have backed themselves into a corner with this pre-contract agreement, and they may be forced to give Mourinho the reins at Old Trafford. Which is of course what the Vice Chairman wants, but it will be very interesting if they do to see how long he lasts, and how the fans react. Some close to the club feel that before Mourinho does get the job there will be some serious blood-letting, and if he does it may result in Sir Alex Ferguson severing ties with the club as long as Woodward remains.
Football management in the modern era is about constant evolution, something Sir Alex achieved to the envy of many during his time at Old Trafford. Is Mourinho prepared to change his style to stay in the spotlight and try to rediscover the key to success personally and for his club on the pitch? Or will he stick to his tried and tested formula? Is he prepared to behave the way Manchester United expects its leaders to conduct themselves?
If he does get the job at Old Trafford, and if he does fail. Where to then? A career in television may well be the next step. He has never been afraid to air his opinions, he has style of that there can be no argument, and it would keep him in the public eye as well as the spotlight, something one feels he craves. The question is does he crave that more than the game itself?