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Why Mourinho can’t match Ferguson for a lasting legacy

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Even before this weekend’s disappointing result at West Ham, following Chelsea’s previous disappointing result in Kiev, Jose Mourinho took a predictable turn, and blamed someone else for his side’s misgivings. In what is becoming a familiar process, there was talk the following morning about lost dressing rooms, player revolt, and the impending Pep Guardiola shaped shadow.

When The Special/Happy One was handed the Chelsea reigns for the second time, there was talk about replicating the achievements of the recently retired Sir Alex Ferguson.

In his 12 or so years in elite management, Jose Mourinho has played the management game as if it were a live action version of Football Manager, that is, join a club with money and a decent team, stay for 3 years, before moving on to a similarly lucrative prospect elsewhere on the continent.

He was good at it though.

This is a man who won successive European titles with FC Porto, who turned Chelsea into a domestic force, and who managed to break the La Liga monopoly, held by (until last year) the best Barcelona team in at least 20 years. If anything, the only thing he hasn’t done (aside from European success at Chelsea), is build a lasting legacy, in the mould of Shankly, Ferguson, or even Klopp.

Yet if he is to achieve this, there are certainly changes that need to be made.

Compare the Mourinho way vs the Ferguson way in each of these key parameters.

No player is bigger than the club.

It’s a lovely adage thrown about on web forums, often when a star player is angling for a move away (looking at you El Nino), but quite often it’s not true.

Sir Alex was able to achieve what he did, because anybody that said otherwise, was swifly moved on, star player or otherwise. Everyone knew he was the boss, and everyone wanted to play for him, knowing that if Stam, Beckham, Van Nistelrooy – even club captain Roy Keane – weren’t too big for the club, chances are they weren’t either!

Mourinho, born winner though he is, does not seem to be getting the respect from some of his more senior players at present.

While it won’t help that so many of them are off colour at the moment – Terry, Cahill, Fabregas, Matic, Hazard, Costa, all former PFAers, now horribly out of form. Jose has felt the fans ire after dropping Captain, Leader, Legend JT, whilst Branislav Ivanovic is repeatedly tied in knots by left wingers, week after week. The Special One is hardly endearing himself to his players.

We live in an age of Jose Bosingwas and Sandros where player power can dictate the chairman’s itchy trigger finger, and often, it can be easier to sulk, and wait for the man in the jacket to get the boot, rather than put water under the bridge and knuckle down. Thus, Mourinho’s seemingly mutual lack of respect for his players, and his heavy handling of the various fragile egos, is something that will need to change if he is to continue for many years in Chelsea blue.

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Back in the time where Sir Alex wasn’t mad at the BBC for slagging off his son (just ask the average Preston fan instead), any post match interview where United had performed off key, were always met with a degree of rage, often directed towards an official, a pitch, or a grey kit (yes, that actually happened!).

Yet not once did it feel like desperation.

Probably because you knew that prior to the interview, Sir Alex would have had the hairdryer up to 11, his face likely still twitching in anger. The media may have been fed the bluster of failed officiating, but deep down, you knew United’s players were never allowed to believe this.

I always get the impression with Mourinho that he allows his players to feed off the excuses. It’s not just not his/their fault, but it’s also actively somebody else’s.

If a manager is to last for five, ten or 15 years in a single job, he will inevitably run into a sticky spell, maybe brought about by an injury crisis, a player retirement/sale, or the ever reliable new Sheikh in town. When Mourinho encounters this, normally around the time of his third season, the wheels appear to come off.

Everyone starts to talk about him jumping ship, because that’s what he invariably does, and until he learns how to ride it out, and motivate his players through the tough times, it will always remain this way.

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The best managers will always be keen strategists, and will always be in a constant state of rebuilding, not transition.

In 20 years, Manchester United didn’t really have a “transition” so to speak. Sure, there were stop gaps (Laurent Blanc anyone?), but at the same time, new youngsters were being brought in and blooded. Many point to Ferguson getting lucky with the class of 92, and he did, but his 2008 side of Tevez, Rooney and Ronaldo, Van Der Sar, Ferdinand, Vidic etc, eclipsed even this.

Mourinho, this season, has done nothing of the sort.

There was an arrogance about how they assumed the “little guy” (Everton) would cave into the $ signs, so much so, that John Stones still wears Everton blue, not Chelsea blue.

Radamal Falcao, far past his sell by date, a backup goalkeeper, and a backup left back are the only additions of note. No young starlets, no wow signings. Effectively more of the same. Ignoring the fact that in the final 5 months of the prior year, Oscar/Costa/Fabregas ran out of steam, and probably aside from the demolition of Swansea, there were no stand out performances in the second half of the year, with the defeat to a 10 man Paris St Germain highlighting shortcomings.

The advantage of only being at a club for 3 years, particularly one with money, is that you can complete one “cycle”. You can pick your favourites, add new blood, and utilise the skills already in place, much like like year’s Chelsea did. The greatest challenge of long term managers is being able to fully evolve your teams.

So can he do it? Can he stay in it for the long haul?

I say he can’t, but at Chelsea, it may not be his choice.

When he made that “Happy One” speech, talking about building a legacy, it was as much of a statement, as a plea to Roman Abramovich, and if anything, that might be the biggest barrier to his potential dynasty. Will he get the chance to do it? Only time will tell.

Featured image: all rights reserved by Ronnie McDonald.


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