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The first time I heard of Jose Mourinho was way back in 2004 when his FC Porto knocked Manchester United out of the UEFA Champions League when Costinha netted an equaliser during the closing stages of the game.
After that, he cemented his move to Chelsea and became one of the most successful managers in football, leading Chelsea to the Premier League title for the first time in 50 years. He gave himself the title of ‘The Special One’ and for the last 15 years, that has pretty much stuck with him; until recently.
During his time at Chelsea, I couldn’t stand the fact that he turned them into the new powerhouse of England, breaking the mould of Manchester United and Arsenal being the top dogs.
I used to hate watching Man Utd-Chelsea games, knowing full well that we (Man Utd) would most likely lose – a regular occurrence when Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson went head-to-head.
The style of football that his teams used to play was attractive, moving to a 4-3-3 which was, at the time, unusual to see in the English game. He also had some great players who suited his style of zonal marking.
After his public departure from Chelsea, Mourinho managed to get some redemption after a short stint at Inter Milan where he won the Scudetto and the Champions League with Inter Milan.
He did cause controversy along the way, especially against referees and other managers. The Inter fans were also concerned about the style of play he made this team play compared to his previous Chelsea team.
After the announcement that he would be the next Real Madrid manager, this is where Mourinho had lost his magic as a master tactician.
When Mourinho arrived at Real Madrid, this was at the time when Barcelona was going through a revival with none other than Pep Guardiola and putting their mark on La Liga and Europe.
Mourinho may have inherited the Galacticos and brought in the likes of Sami Kherdia, Mesut Ozil, Ricardo Carvalho and Angel Di Maria to show the world that not only could he handle the job, but also take Real Madrid back to the top.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. He lost 5-0 to Guardiola’s Barcelona in their first meeting.
Although he did manage to win the Copa del Rey and La Liga during his time there, Mourinho was continually schooled by Guardiola on the new direction football was going in – possession-based football, rather than the sit deep, defend, break style that Mourinho had perfected.
This showed the world Mourinho probably wasn’t that good a manager as everyone thought – although he would obviously deny this.
He then returned to Chelsea and managed Manchester United from 2013 to 2019, where he had some success again by winning the Premier League and Europa League, respectively.
The only problem was that the football he was making his teams play was the same boring football of sitting deep, defend and break; which couldn’t be done at every single team Mourinho managed.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and now Pep Guardiola are a small crop of managers who were able to rebuild squads and adapt playing styles where necessary. For Jose, it’s the Mourinho way only and this is pretty evident now at Tottenham Hotspur.
To this day, I believe it was a mistake for the Spurs hierarchy to get rid of Mauricio Pochettino when they did.
The Argentinian managed to take Spurs to the final of the Champions League and should have been rewarded with having a budget to slowly rebuild his squad.
After being on top of the league at the end of 2020, there was some talk (albeit from a rather small group) that Mourinho may have got his mojo back and win the league for Spurs.
The philosopher George Santayana has a quote that I’m sure most people have headed before: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
This, again, is Mourinho’s problem where he doesn’t reflect on his tactics, his behaviour or his man-management. The 3-1 loss to Manchester United this week shows again that Mourinho has lost his special touch.
Although the first half was a bit of a drab, the second half was a capitulation of his team, conceding three goals. There was no hunger or interest in wanting to extend their lead after the break, Spurs seemed happy to just sit back and let United play with the ball – as has been the case for most of the season.
After 18 months or so at Tottenham Hotspur, serious questions should be asked of Mourinho and what his vision is for the club. Sure, you can talk the talk and mention how many trophies you have won, but you need to back that up with wins and take the club to the next level and challenge for the title.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been criticised since his arrival at Manchester United and many have asked questions about his managerial ability.
Throughout this season, there have been signs that he has improved as a manager by reflecting, identifying areas that need attention with his squad and picking a team to get the job done. That is what a good manager does.
If Jose did some proper reflection and started to revolutionise his tactic, maybe we might see the return of ‘The Special One’.
At this stage, however, it is clearly evident that Mourinho has lost his magic.