Welcome to the Virgin Media Midweek Kick-off! As Jose Mourinho prepares for his return to the Premier League with Manchester United next season, we ask football writers Matt Blake and Sam Diss if the world’s most controversial manager – aka “The Special One” – is bad for the English game.
YES! He’s anti-football
“Mourinho’s win-at-any-cost approach is the opposite of the free-flowing football we've come to love” – Matt Blake, sports writer, Virgin Media
The rampant commercialisation of modern football makes it easy to forget it’s still, really, just another form of entertainment. Isn’t it? Mourinho’s win-at-any-cost approach to games is the antithesis of the free-flowing, buccaneering football we've all come to love. But Mourinho believes that to win you must defend, hold up play, defend, disrupt rhythms, defend, and frustrate opponents into oblivion. Sure, it’s nice for his fans when he wins, but isn’t it a bit boring for everyone else? He is a negative influence on a game that should be fun – and beautiful.
He’s a bad role model
Mourinho does not behave nicely. There have been times when his post-match interviews play out like an awkward lift ride with a gnome who’s lost his favourite fishing rod. He’ll mutter and groan, then finally blame everything on the referee… or Arsene Wenger… or the team doctor. Even when he wins, and has nothing obvious to moan about, he’ll think of something (usually to do with Arsene Wenger). Yes, when he’s in the mood he can be charismatic and quotable, but he also pursues feuds with rivals and falls out with his own players and staff.
Ronaldo won’t come to England
Wouldn’t it be great if Cristiano Ronaldo saw out his career back in England? Love him or hate him, he’s great for English football. There have been reports that Real Madrid were prepared to send him back to Man United this summer… but only if Mourinho isn’t there. Their relationship soured hugely at Real Madrid and Ronaldo reportedly wants no more to do with Mourinho – which is a huge loss for the Premier League.
He has no interest in youth talent
At a time when it is harder than ever for young British players to break through at top Premier League clubs, an enduring criticism of Mourinho is that he has an abysmal record of giving chances to youth players. In November, Sportsmail revealed that at all six clubs he’s managed over 15 years, he has handed first-team opportunities in the league to just 23 academy players. I wonder how much room he’ll give United’s latest wunderkind Marcus Rashford at United? The English game needs English players.
He’s a celebrity appointment, not a sensible one
Remember when Gary Barlow replaced Simon Cowell on The X Factor for a bit in 2011? He couldn’t revive the show’s flagging ratings as hoped, and Cowell returned three years later. Mourinho coming to United feels a bit like that. He’s a celebrity signing; the superstar spark designed to reignite the fading embers of United's past. And he might do just do that. Trouble is, in a commercially-driven world where winning hearts and minds in distant countries is almost as important as results themselves, Mourinho, like Barlow, doesn’t bring the flair that fans really want. United can forget the pulsating football “philosophy” they got from Ferguson. Mourinho's style flies in the face of United tradition. He won’t relight their fire.
Agree with Matt? Vote now
NO! He’s just what we need
“Every movie needs a big, evil supervillain… and Jose Mourinho fits the mould perfectly” – Sam Diss, football writer, Mundial Magazine
He’ll attract great players
Man United aren’t the force they once were in the transfer market, having lacked much in the way of silverware – or even quality players – for a couple of years now. But in Jose they have a marquee name that people will want to play for. When Jose’s number pops up on your phone, you answer it. No matter who you are, when his email pops into your inbox, you read it. Expect at least 1-2 big, big names in the Premier League next season courtesy of his pulling power.
He’s a strong character
He grew angry and frustrated in his second season at Chelsea, but we can put that down to residual Real Madrid stress and managing Diego Costa. He’s a man adept at taking the toughest jobs around. Next season, he’s at what was once the world’s biggest club, a club that desperately needs someone to rebuild it. Who better than Jose? He's done it before... he can do it again.
He knows how to deal with the press
Louis van Gaal – the evil owl of defensive football – lost his job because he wouldn’t play The Man United Way and took it out on the press. Jose Mourinho – the Darth Vader of 1-0 wins – will do the same, of course, but he’ll at least do it in a surlier, wittier way. Mourinho treats press conferences like a smart-ass teenager talking to his parents: heavy eyelids, slumped in his chair, tossing off caustic barbs like it ain’t no thing. When the time comes, Mourinho will be ready.
He’ll clear out the dead wood
You’d need to be pretty ruthless to chop United’s bloated, not-quite-good-enough squad down to size, and Jose’s got that covered. While his sentimental streak is well documented – his re-signing of Didier Drogba and sporadic thawing of ancient John Terry are the two most obvious examples – he’s also a man who knows what he wants and what a team needs to win. And if you’re not good enough? Well, better book that ticket to Burnley now…
We’ve missed him
Rival fans will say they were glad to see him leave. They’re in denial. Chelsea fans will say they don’t want him back. They’re lying. The football commentariat will say it’s a poor choice and his recent record is a bit suspect. They’re telling the truth, but also lying. Sure, there are better managers and, yes, after a while players begin to hate him, but there’s no denying the Premier League is an altogether more interesting place when he’s around. Every movie needs a big evil – the supervillain who will unite the fractured factions in opposition – and Jose Mourinho fits that mould perfectly.
Agree with Sam? Vote now
Recommended for you
Two things we love
These lower league footballers could also shake up the Barclays Premier League party…