Only two managers have coached Manchester United to be champions of Europe and they were both knighted. That would appeal to Jose Mourinho’s sense of self importance and he is now looking to emulate Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson by bringing the Champions League to Old Trafford. That project must be delayed for at least a year but winning the Europa League with United would create some history.
Even when the Special One was telling everyone how much he loved Chelsea the job he craved most was with Manchester United. He would have walked up the motorway barefoot to assume the Fergie role and it all fitted into place at the end of last season with the departure of Louis Van Gaal. On reflection Mourinho was the best man for the job when Sir Alex retired and three years have been wasted.
There were murmurings some influential characters at United did not fancy the Mourinho form of management. He seems to make enemies easier than friends, plays functional but not joyous football and prefers to spend money on established talent rather than taking risks with youth. However, he will buy into the tradition of United and can win the Premier League at the end of his first season in charge.
Mourinho has won league titles with four different clubs and won the Champions League with Porto and Inter Milan. However, he has never managed an English club when they won the Champions League and that will be at the top of his bucket list in his new job. However, if United win the Europa League, for which they are favourites, they will become just the fifth club to win three different European trophies. Mourinho has won a domestic league and European trophy in the same season with Porto in 2003-04 and Inter Milan six years later.
The Portuguese coach has already been up to his old tricks in the week leading up to the new season. His old buddy, Arsene Wenger, and Jurgen Klopp made some disparaging comments about how much United paid for Paul Pogba. Mourinho’s response was basically to say Arsenal and Liverpool were not big enough clubs to be involved in such an expensive deal. It seems outrageous to spend so much on one player but Pogba is world class and could be the dominant player at United for the next ten years.
Mourinho has been in management since 2000 and his overall match win rate is over 66%. He has a history of his teams not losing at home over a long spell and bringing the fear factor back to Old Trafford will be a major objective. Whether that is by winning fixtures 3-2 or 4-3 or sneaking a single goal win is something for the future but United could go the whole league season without losing at Old Trafford. They are second favourites behind City to win the Premier League for the first time since 2012-13. Neither Moyes of Van Gaal led the club to the title during their time at the club.
Towards the end of the Van Gaal’s era United were 8/1 to win the league this season. That price has more than halved after some notable arrivals and Pogba could accelerate the betting move. United have a great chance of winning the title again and Mourinho’s new team had the joint-best defensive record last season and David De Gea had 18 clean sheets. Zlatan Ibrahimovic may only stay for one year but he could prosper with what he has described as the biggest club he has represented. Mourinho will get United in the mix but there is now no value in the odds.
The English Premier League has the money to attract the best coaching talent and how the season pans out will be linked with how the recruits from overseas will adapt to the special demands of football in England. A team could be playing away at Scunthorpe in the League Cup on a Wednesday and then face a blockbuster with a massively wealthy club the following Saturday. Antonio Conte and Chelsea can handle that scenario and look a decent price to win the league.
Mourinho rarely goes a season without winning a trophy and the Community Shield doesn’t count. United have never won the Europa League or its predecessor, the UEFA Cup, and they are the best side in the competition. Matching the achievements of the two Sirs in Europe can wait but Mourinho can be running around the Friends Arena in Solna in Sweden holding the Europa League trophy next May.
Have a fantastic weekend!