Home / Industry / Media /  The case for and against Jose Mourinho as Manchester United manager

New Delhi: Its over 24 hours since FA Cup winners Manchester United announced the departure of their former Dutch manager Louis van Gaal. In another 24 hours from now, they’re expected to confirm his replacement, Jose Mourinho.

Mourinho, according to British media reports, has agreed on personal terms with the club during a Tuesday meeting in Manchester United’s London office, and barring a few minor sticky points over the Portuguese manager’s image rights, his appointment on a three-year deal is imminent, with an announcement due later on Wednesday, or on Thursday. United will reportedly pay Mourinho a staggering £15 million a season, matching city rivals Manchester City, who appointed Pep Guardiola in a similar deal last year.

Mourinho has been out of work since December, when he was sacked by Chelsea after a disastrous start to their title defence, when they were precariously placed among the bottom four clubs in the league.

There’s a considerable sense of anxiety, optimism, hope and fear (in equal measure) among Manchester United faithfuls, including this writer, about Mourinho’s suitability for a job, he’s famously, and rather publicly flirted with over the last few years.

Predictably, there are several strands of thought among the fanbase, with the more conservative ones pointing to his abrasive personality, his style of management, which to an extent defies United’s age-old attacking philosophy and his less than desirable track record with youth in his previous stints. They fear that over his tenure, the club synonymous with Sir Matt Busby, Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Alex Ferguson, could well be Mourinho’s (and by extension his powerful agent Jorge Mendes) playground. For them, Mourinho is a serial disrupter, who tends to destroy football clubs with his imprint. Equally, his magnetic ability to attract all sorts of off-field controversies, they argue, is not worth the trouble.

Lending a strong voice to this notion is the much revered club legend Eric Cantona, who while expressing his admiration for Mourinho reckoned that, “in terms of the football he plays, I don’t think he’s Manchester United."

The other school of thought, an increasingly vocal one at that, furthers Mourinho’s case as the man the club needs going forward, partly thanks to the circumstances United find themselves in three years after the legendary Ferguson, their long serving manager retired. They point to his track record as a serial winner, which he admittedly is, and that his arrogance, if channelled well, could lead the club to more successes. They say that a glut of trophies he typically brings to the club he manages (at least for two years) is the ideal tonic United needs to reinvigorate itself and win back its rightful place among the English elite.

And lastly, the most bullish school of thought which believes that managing a club of Manchester United’s magnitude could change Mourinho’s character, forcing him to navigate the colossal expectations of the club with a more nuanced approach, where he lends his personality yet imbibes the fabric of the club. And that the very nature of the football club could tame him, and that he could build on the foundations set by Ferguson and his successors, most notably van Gaal.

All three of them, have a point.

Mourinho’s appointment as Manchester United manager comes across not like a marriage of convenience, but one of necessity. There’s an element of pragmatism about it, not too different from the way Mourinho likes to play his football.

The club has been left with very little choice, but to appoint Mourinho given the current field of world-class managers in the Premier League. Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City, Antonio Conte at Chelsea, Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham Hotspur, Ronald Koeman at Southampton, Slaven Bilic at West Ham. The list goes on and on, even with the latest appointment of Walter Mazzari at Watford. Everton might appoint a big name soon.

Given the presence of these top-class managers, to ignore a someone with Mourinho’s experience and track record would have been utterly ignorant on United’s part. Or for that matter, handing over the reins to club legend Ryan Giggs, who served as assistant to the two previous United managers David Moyes and van Gaal, would have come across as naiveté, even if Giggs could one day take over the club he represented since 1991.

United are embarking on what can only be described as a wild ride, where they could re-emerge as a strong force within two years. The third year, as evidence has repeatedly shown, is when the Jose project could go haywire for the football club, often ending in chaos and inevitably, his sacking. Should he overcome (a big if!) the third-year syndrome, Manchester United could well be the long-term dynasty he has long desired to build. Anything else, and we’d be back from ‘the special one’ to ‘square one’.

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