The Mourinho Story

From his early days as a child, son of a first division and Portuguese international goalkeeper by the name of Félix Mourinho, José Mourinho had always been around the game of football. While his father trained, he fetched balls, when his father began to manage José began to watch training sessions and scouting the opposition. José as any and most young boys he wanted to be like his father to play at the highest level, but in the same breath José lacked the physical tools to truly reach the heights he wanted as a player, but his footballing brain would always give him a chance in his short professional career and he began to focus on becoming like a manager like his father. From there José began his march to being all that he could be.

Mourinho was always in football (as stated earlier), and here in the managerial world he could thrive. He went to the Instituto Superior de Educação Física (ISEF), Technical University of Lisbon, to study sports science. He taught Physical Education which would be an influence in his coaching methods and earned his diploma and the wheels began to turn. Where he learned from the English and Scottish Football Associations where his drive and attention to detail was easily seen. Watching and learning from his father, translating for Sir Bobby Robson while at Sporting CP, Porto FC and FC Barcelona. Working under Louis van Gaal where he translated, planned training session, giving his tactical advice to help players, and coaching Barcelona B.

José Mourinho throughout his managerial career winning titles and moving on. Sometimes forced out or on his own accord. One thing that has stood out to me has always been his track r­ecord of winning (major) titles in his second season. From his first full season at (2003/04) Porto winning the Portuguese league and the UEFA Champions league off the back of winning the UEFA Cup (now known as the Europa League). His mega move to England and joining Chelsea he won the Premier League in his first season, but in his second season 2005/06 he won the league again. In the 2009/10 season with Inter Milan he won the treble, and personally it was his second time winning the treble.

After proving his tactical prowess by beating FC Barcelona in the Champions League in 2010, and with a man down at the Nou Camp. It lead to him ending up at Real Madrid. Then he did it again by winning La Liga in his second season while breaking records. He made his return to Stamford Bridge in 2014, and after finishing in third & only four points behind the winners Manchester City… José was back on it again by taking the Premier League trophy back to London in the 2014/15 season. Which brings me to my thoughts of what can be achieved at Manchester United in his second season coming off the back of winning the Europa League and League Cup in his first season at the club.

Porto: Who is José Mourinho?

Once José Mourinho left União de Leiria and headed to Porto it seemed like he began to find himself. In joining Porto, he began to develop his football philosophy in that played “beautiful football” wasn’t always attainable, and his pragmatic beliefs came through. He was at FC Barcelona after the foundation that the legendary Johan Cruyff left of the concept of “Total Football”, and was very much a part of what FC Barcelona was based on the versatility of the players to be able to take up any position on the pitch and not have a drop off in the overall shape of the team. That also dominating possession was in a way the key to winning matches. Mourinho implemented his own way through his own education. It was a different way in where his teams pressed high up the pitch and enjoyed passing football, but for Mourinho’s team the most important thing especially in the dressing room was that winning was key and they had to… WIN. José was willing to do anything he had to do to ensure that they won. Whether that had to be psychological warfare from winding up opposition managers in press conferences to putting pressure of referees. Anything meant anything. José believed that the players played, and he did whatever he could do because that is what he believed that was his role.

As far as his team play he would play 4-4-3 in the league, but in Europe would rely on the 4-4-2 (Diamond). His team was what it was, and in size (as far as height) the average size would be around 5’11’’ (1.80m). With the likes of Deco, Ricardo Carvalho, Derlei, and Costinha who were nobodies before Mourinho. Tactically he drilled his team of nobodies into a group of European conquers. Where he would have Fullbacks like Nuno Valente and Paolo Ferreira, and the midfield playing together and have the ultimate work-rate to make up for the difference in talent when they were to play bigger teams like Real Madrid, Manchester United, etc. Training them to play with 10 men in case of a red card which led them to glory in Europe. Winning the Portuguese league with ease losing only 2 matches in a 34-match season, and becoming the first to win back-to-back Liga titles. In his own words that In Portugal its simple, you have a very good team (and) you’ll win the championship. So much so that prior to the start of the 2nd season he promised the league. For José winning was down to quality, confidence, and working hard… “No quality, no chance”.

Chelsea: The Special One has arrived

José landed in England like an asteroid from outer space… a phenomenon some called him. Joining after doing what seemed like the impossible by winning the UEFA Champions League with Porto. He took out England’s best the previous year in Sir Alex Ferguson, at Old Trafford, and in “Fergie Time”. After his first press conference, he had a new name “The Special One”, and he set a target on his back with what seemed like an arrogance. In his first season, he was once again… Special. Bringing Chelsea their first Premier League in 50 years. José would come in and get rid of big names in the Chelsea side and began putting his hands-on things in the transfer window, and like he’s done at Manchester United he started with the spine from the strikers down to the goalkeeper. He signed integral players like Didier Drogba, Michael Essien also his own players from Porto Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira. In his 2nd season (2005/06) he retained the league and won the League Cup

While during his first spell at Chelsea he brought the 4-4-2 (diamond) that he used while at Porto with the likes of Drogba and Eiður Guðjohnsen leading the line with a diamond featuring Lampard behind the strikers with Claude Makélélé as the deepest lying midfielder protecting the center-backs John Terry and Carvalho. The average size (as far as height) was on average 5’11 ½ (1.81m).

He explains the advantages to marking zonally:

Look, if I have a triangle in midfield – Claude Makélélé behind and two others just in front – I will always have an advantage against a pure 4–4–2 where the central midfielders are side by side. That’s because I will always have an extra man. It starts with Makélélé, who is between the lines. If nobody comes to him he can see the whole pitch and has time. If he gets closed down it means one of the two other central midfielders is open. If they are closed down and the other team’s wingers come inside to help, it means there is space now for us on the flank, either for our own wingers or for our full-backs. There is nothing a pure 4–4–2 can do to stop things.

He took advantage of the fact that most English teams were still playing in the regular 4-4-2 formation. Later moving to the 4-3-3 where Drogba played the centre forward role alone with wingers. Makélélé in the centre of the park. Which he used to dominate matches, but once again he brought a title in his second season. Once again, he left after the third season.

Mourinho’s training method was laid out to be 4 simple things:

  1. Attack
  2. Defence
  3. Transition from attack to defence.
  4. Transition from defence to attack.

Internazionale (Inter Milan):

His success brought him to Italy, and once again he was there to win and win he did. Going to Inter in 2008 was also a time where was in contention to be the FC Barcelona manager, but lost out to a player he coached while assisting Louis van Gaal by the name of Pep Guardiola. Judged on a criteria of 9 key points José only fulfilled 6 of the 9 and eventually losing out because he had not shown that he could:

  1. Youth development.
  2. Presenting the clubs image in the right manner in the media.

Both qualities that many believe hurt his chances of becoming Manchester United manager sooner. Instead he went to Italy and instantly won the league in the 2008/09. At the start of the 2009/10 season a certain club peaked his interest with news from Manchester United that Sir Alex Ferguson had retired. José was quoted as saying:

I would consider going to Manchester United but United have to consider if they want me to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson. If they do, then of course.

Once again, he showed his true class in winning the “Treble” making Internazionale (Inter Milan) the first Italian club to win the Treble. In his second season 2009/10 he made few, but impactful, signings but once again the spine was the most important part. Bringing in strikers Diego Milito and Samuel Eto’o to lead the line, Thiago Motta and Wesley Sneijder to strengthen the midfield. Mourinho led the team that he himself claimed wasn’t the most talented into champions because of tactics and work rate. While at Inter Milan Mourinho played deeper and more pragmatic football. The opposite of his Porto days in where he tended to press high up the pitch. In 2010 during the Champions league his Inter side came up against the Pep Guardiola led Barcelona side and defeated them winning 3-2 on aggregate after losing 1-0 at the Nou Camp in the 2nd leg of where Inter played with 10 men, and only had 19% of the possession. José believed  they could win without the ball, and in this match, he showed the flaw in Barcelona’s version of “Total Football” known to many as “tiki-taka”.

A statement that possession didn’t win you matches. Once again that winning at all cost what mattered most whether it was “negative” or not. In his Inter team they played the 4-3-1-2, but became a 4-5-1 when playing without the ball. The team was well drilled and built to defend and capable of seeing matches off.

They had players in the right places at the right time with the best football brains to execute Mourinho’s tactics. In the end Mourinho would go on to beat Bayern Münich to win the 2010 UEFA Champions League in Madrid. After winning the most prized trophy in club football José Mourinho claimed he was: sad, as almost for sure it’s my last game with Inter. His time in Italy was over… José had come, seen and conquered Italy and Italian football.

Real Madrid: Operation stop Barcelona

Mourinho joined Madrid many believe off the back of his tactical masterclass against FC Barcelona in the Champions League. In the first meeting between the rivals Real Madrid lost 5-Nil, and in that José reinvented himself and his team that they had to beat Barcelona in other aspects to beat them on the pitch. He and his team HAD to be smarter and nastier when facing their fiercest rivals Barcelona. Then he did it again in his second season where he led Madrid to the La Liga title and again the defensive José Mourinho broke (attacking) records in his title winning season. The Mourinho that led Porto did the same but this time with one of the strongest and most gifted team in Europe. He created a siege mentality that created an atmosphere that made the team closer.

Upon joining he brought in soon to be household names in Sami Khedira, Mesut Özil, Ricardo Carvalho (again) and Ángel Di María. In La Liga against smaller sides Mourinho would play a 4-2-3-1 which would give a player like Cristiano Ronaldo a free role, but against bigger sides in La Liga and in Europe they would turn into a 4-3-3. In this case Madrid, didn’t need Mourinho to be a tactical genius but more of a psychologist to get them over the proverbial hump that was Barcelona at the time the best team in all of football. It was never bad to have a manager capable of doing both duties to make sure his team was always prepared for anything and believed in one another. For an extended period, only one could wish, but on a match to match basis was perfect and remains perfect for any José Mourinho led side.

Return to Chelsea: “The Happy One”

José Mourinho had again left a club after 3 seasons, and was on his way back to London to lead Chelsea back to the top of English football. This time avoiding the nickname that made him a recognisable figure in the media. He was no longer “The Special One”, but called himself “The Happy One”. In his return, he upon the 2013/14 season he had once again missed out on chance to manage Manchester United, but in his return, there was a sense of maturity that was always there but in a different sense where he had unfinished business. Maybe not at Chelsea but for his own ego and competitiveness. In his first season, back he missed the title by 4 points. Like he had shown before the second season would be much more successful.

In his transfer business, he went and made his team better in areas of need by bringing back Drogba, a workhorse of a forward in Diego Costa, a midfield maestro in Cesc Fàbregas and bringing back goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois who had been out on loan. Once again, the stronger the spine of the team was it would give the team a much better chance of winning the league. The team was also set in the 4-2-3-1 formation. The idea of this title winning side was to be able to play deep, soak up pressure in the way José’s Inter side played, and hit back on the counter-attack that matched his training methods that involved transition from attack to defence and vice versa. With times allowing teams to dominate possession and make teams pay for it when they make mistakes. Which in a way justified the sale of a player like Juan Mata to United upon his return because physically Juan wasn’t dynamic enough and be able to track back and help out in defence. Whereas a player like Willian is dynamic and capable to play in defence, and an area Mourinho helped Eden Hazard to unlock in his game. Mourinho once again was not able to see out his contract and was sacked.

Manchester United: Finally, “The Special One” joins a very special Club

After Louis van Gaal won the 2015/16 FA Cup news broke instantly that what almost felt would never happen was happening… “The Special One” was on his way to Manchester United. José Mourinho was finally Manchester United manager and the pressure came, but José seemed set on one thing and that was taking Manchester United back to the top of the England, bring some stability to the club, and back to European glory. One of the most consistent things that José does at each club is to build a spine to combat the opposition, create an atmosphere, and outwork opposing teams. In the transfer window, he wanted quality over quantity and asked for 4 new signings. He brought in centre-back Eric Bailly, then added Bundesliga player of the season Henrikh Mkhitaryan, added Zlatan Ibrahimović, and re-signed Paul Pogba from Juventus for a world record fee… When many thought it could only happen playing FIFA or Football Manager.

He joined and in his first season at the club José was able to deliver the League Cup, Europa League and the Community Shield similar to what he did at Porto. So, with that being said it should be a lock that the Premier League and Champions League is automatically ours… No, but in all seriousness in an unpredictable season where the competition for Champions League spots was open to anyone, and United underachieved finishing 6th in the Premier League table, and 24 points behind the champions Chelsea. But throughout the season you could see glimpse of José’s vision for his Manchester United team and also see some of his weaknesses show. He produced tactical masterclasses against the Premier League Chelsea once in the FA Cup only for it to be unsuccessful due to an Ander Herrera red card and out of the FA Cup. Then later again at Stamford Bridge successfully marking Hazard out of the match while his high press worked to perfection overpowering Chelsea. Later brilliantly picked apart a young and inexperienced Ajax side in the Europa League final, and proved his worth again when it came down to European Cup finals.

Where in the first season the defense had become a strength, but the team’s inability to be clinical saw the team draw matches in games where they dominated especially at Old Trafford. His weaknesses showed in things like squad rotation to the point where he let players leave (because they requested to) but hurt the team later in the season when those players might have received game time. He played Marcus Rashford who many believed would rot on the bench as Ibrahimović was the main striker, he played Lingard and in the last game of the season he fielded the youngest United line-up in Premier League history… To claim he gives youth a chance? Maybe so, but all us United fans want to see is our own succeed. In the First team. He proved that his win by any means mentality wasn’t just a quote. Mourinho was tactically flexible in games he needed the team would attack, in others his pragmatism showed, in another it was about soaking pressure and making teams pay then see out the game. José had a successful season but it was only one year and failing to challenge in the League would only be accepted for his inaugural season at the helm.

While I’ve laid out his stay at several clubs and going into his second season with United has been no different. He’s asked for 4 new players, and gotten a young center-back in Victor Lindelöf to partner with Eric Bailly, and an out & out proven Premier League goal scorer in Romelu Lukaku and had to let go of a possible Antoine Griezmann signing due to the Atlético Madrid transfer ban that has impacted all of football. With the 2017/18 team José could possibly have a starting XI where every player is over 6ft. During the USA Tour he’s tried the 3-5-2 formation, but also used the 4-2-3-1 and sure he’ll try others in order to find ways to get the best from Pogba which will free up others like Lukaku, Martial, Rashford, Mkhitaryan and others. The team is young after letting the likes of Rooney go Everton. Which bodes well because once the mentality is set then the core group will lead and benefit the teams of the future.

José has shown his quality and continues to reinvent himself to adapt being the man to lead the world’s most popular team and most valuable football team. In search of trophies to prove his greatness. Recently he’s said he wants to manage Manchester United for the next 15 years, but it is coming from a man that hasn’t been at 1 club for longer than 3 seasons. His goal when he returned to Chelsea was to build a dynasty because that was what was missing from his CV, but he failed and now with a new challenge and more fire in his stomach… it’s the perfect recipe for success. He will always have his detractors that still don’t believe he is the right man to lead United. Not because he’s tactically inept but because they would prefer a manager that has and believes in the ethos (ie: Ryan Giggs) of a club similar in the likeness of Sir Alex and to the older generation Sir Matt Busby. I personally have been spoiled as a United fan to see all the trophies that Sir Alex brought to us, and Sir Alex will forever be the best, but I believe José Mourinho is the right man for the job maybe not at the right time, but only time will tell.

He has the team, club, and the majority of the supporters as a whole believing that its only so long until we are celebrating the 21st title, and another Champions League trophy. In an interview with Omnisport Mourinho had this to say:

I try to analyse the realities before I arrived in the club, but you only know the reality when you are inside. The first season is hard. I enjoy the second because in the second I know I’m not making mistakes. You think you know the players, but you don’t. You only know them when you have them in good moments and bad moments. The one I really enjoy to do is the transition from the first to the second season.

This upcoming season will be worth the watch because we know what José Mourinho can do in his 2nd season…