A piece about Jose Mourinho shouldn’t really belong on a dedicated Manchester City blog, but it struck me that the Portuguese manager’s time in England has, in way or another, always had some kind of impact on our club. His sacking is such a momentous event that it’s hard to let it pass without comment.
Jose has always been a ‘character’. Some supporters hated him from the moment he proclaimed himself to be “a special one” in his opening Chelsea press conference, all the way back in 2004. Back then, his claims at being special were rather less proven than they are now. Sure, he’d won the UEFA Cup with FC Porto and followed it up a year later with the Champions League, but nobody knew how prolonged his personal run of form would last.
Chelsea, backed by the unprecedented spending power of Roman Abramovich, were desperate for trophies. They hadn’t won the league for 50 years. The Premier League had been dominated by just two clubs; in the nine seasons prior to Mourinho’s arrival, the title had been shared between Arsenal and Manchester United. For City supporters, watching United win title after title wasn’t a fun experience. Mourinho endeared himself to fans of the Blues when, as Porto manager, he celebrated a last minute goal at Old Trafford by sprinting down the touch-line with his arms aloft. Here was a man unafraid of the pressures of facing down Alex Ferguson – he was a welcome addition to the Premier League.
In his first season at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho made good on his claims of being special. From 38 Premier League games, Jose’s side lost just one. That sole defeat came at the hands of City at the City of Manchester Stadium, as it was then named. The Blues were the only team to be unbeaten against the eventual champions, too, after a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge.
That Chelsea romped to the title, ending their 50 year duck with a win at Bolton, meant that Manchester United had not won it. In an era when the Blues had little tangible success of their own to celebrate, seeing United knocked down a peg was a great feeling.
Always good for a quote and with an arrogance that was offset by charm and charisma, Mourinho freshened up the Premier League. Love him or hate him, nobody could deny that Chelsea’s decision to stick him in the dugout had been a masterstroke – a seminal moment that changed the Premier League landscape. The right man was in place to turn Abramovich’s money into silverware. As City fans would go on to discover, it takes a hell of a manager to rid a club of that ‘also-ran’ mentality.
The following season, Chelsea defended their title. Mourinho was still funny; an oddball with an infuriating lack of humility, but funny all-the-same. He was still keeping United’s grubby mitts off the domestic crown, which was nice. However, he didn’t win the title in his third year, though he did complete a domestic cup double. Early into his fourth season, he was dismissed; a breakdown in his relationship with Abramovich, as well as a drop-off in form meant the end for him.
He returned to Chelsea in 2013, still adored by their supporters and rightly so. The best manager in their history had gone away, taken in trophy-laden spells at Internazionale (winning the league twice in two years, as well as the Champions League in his second season) and Real Madrid. City and Jose did cross paths during his time in Spain; the image of him sliding on his knees as Ronaldo fired in a last-minute winner past Joe Hart still haunts me.
Though he came back a more experienced manager – arguably a better one – something was different. Age and experience may have improved him professionally, but he was not a better man. The charisma had gone. He was still quotable, but it was contrived. It has become clear over his second spell in England that Jose’s love for football and for Chelsea had slipped, superseded by a love for himself and disdain for everything – and almost everybody – else.
That return has seen his fortune’s linked with City far more than his previous reign; this time, it was the Blues of Manchester that he would face down for the title, not the reds. In his first season, he could only finish third. However, an incredible victory at Anfield handed City the opportunity to win the league that year, for which we should remain grateful. His bitter dislike for Manuel Pellegrini has been dreadful, his disrespect in referring to his rival as “Mr Pellegrino” making him a dislikeable character. His feud with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been one of the most tiresome episodes in the history of the Premier League; not only was their behaviour worse than childish, they revelled in it too.
An obsession with referees has lead to the manager humiliating himself on numerous occasions. After his side’s defeat to Southampton he spoke only of the decisions that he believed went against Chelsea, ignoring the two far more clear-cut refereeing mistakes that favoured his side. Last season he hijacked Sky’s Goals On Sunday show to proclaim that there was a ‘Campaign Against Chelsea’ – the inference being that the FA had instructed officials to deny Mourinho and his club any chance of success. If that were the case, he would not have been able to finish eight points clear of Pellegrini’s City team.
Creating a siege mentality is a perfectly legitimate way to motivate a football team. Alex Ferguson did it better than anybody, Roberto Mancini employed it with success at the Etihad and Mourinho was once a master of the art. The problem came when the siege mentality gave way to a persecution complex. If there was anybody left that still loved Jose, other than the man himself and the majority of the Chelsea fanbase, they gave up on him this season.
His public shaming of Dr Eva Carneiro, who he dubbed ‘naive’ for treating a player who was claiming to be injured, had some incredibly nasty undertones and forced a highly respected member of staff out of the door. After Chelsea slipped to a 3-0 destruction at the hands of City, he claimed this to be a ‘fake result.’ His grip on sanity was loosening and delusion was setting in. The match report on the official Chelsea website echoed the manager’s comment – that site has become a propaganda machine, peddling delusion and lies as half-baked truths. The club has been consumed by Mourinho, largely to their detriment.
It’s been a theme throughout the first 16 games of this season. After Chelsea slipped to their ninth defeat of the campaign, one that left incredibly left them just one point above the relegation zone, Chelsea finally took action and dismissed their greatest ever manager for a second time.
He has been afforded a level of respect by his peers that he has never afforded them himself. Pellegrini spoke of a loss to the Premier League – would Mourinho have done the same if the situation was reversed? We all know the answer to that question.
A man once revered and respected on top of his success is now despised and dismissed in spite of it. His record speaks for itself; Jose Mourinho is a relentless winner, capable of tremendous impact in a short space of time. It has always been the case that the fires he lights burn out quickly, the dying embers often a sad sight for fans of personalities – he was once an antidote to the bland nature of polished, media-trained professionals prevalent throughout professional sport.
Now, though, he is a caricature of his former-self. A parody of the great Jose Mourinho, lashing out at the world around him because he can’t accept his own failures. He’s always been like that to some degree; maybe we’re all responsible for what he has become. He has been indulged by the English press in a way that he hasn’t anywhere else and so many of us lapped it up for so long. Maybe those of us who were taken in by the image, the quirky-but-clever turn of phrase and the brash new-kid-on-the-block persona of 2004 have created the monster of 2015.
He’ll never be shunned by top clubs because he is too successful for that. However, he may never be indulged in the same way again. He will pick fights with authority in the cocksure manner he always has, but more-and-more he will find that he will lose them. Maybe, just maybe, Jose Mourinho will change; if he does, it will only because he has to. Chelsea has always been his greatest love but nobody could have ever predicted that they also be the hosts of his greatest failure.
For the first time, the Premier League is a better place for not having Jose Mourinho in it.
Written by Richard Burns