In March last year, before it was known that Sir Alex Ferguson would retire, one Manchester United director attempted to look into the future.‘I think the replacement would have to be a Jose Mourinho figure,’ he said.
‘We would need someone who could come in and do a short-term job and keep things rolling, someone who could make the immediate transition as easy as possible.’
Do not think from this that there was some kind of subsequent change of plan at Old Trafford.
Ultimately, only two of United’s Manchester-based personnel were seriously involved in the succession decision: Ferguson himself and the outgoing chief executive David Gill.
Nevertheless, ahead of Sunday’s meeting between David Moyes’ United and Mourinho’s Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, it’s interesting to revisit that conversation.
As United struggle for consistency under Moyes and Chelsea find their gears further up the Barclays Premier League table, some supporters of the defending champions have inevitably asked whether the Portuguese coach would have been a better fit at Old Trafford.
Such is the nature of modern football that patience is short. It’s indicative and rather sad that if you type ‘Moyes’ into a Google search today, it will immediately suggest ‘out’ as the most popular subsequent word.
It follows, therefore, that the small minority of supporters who believe Moyes has already shown himself unfit for purpose should fix their eyes on Mourinho as they look for greener grass.
He, after all, was the preferred choice of many when Ferguson stood down last May.
On the day of Ferguson’s announcement, the Manchester Evening News ran a poll, asking readers to nominate a successor. Predictably, Mourinho attracted more votes than Moyes — 28 per cent to 18 per cent.
The Chelsea manager’s credentials when it comes to his candidacy for top jobs are clear.
He is one of the few modern coaches whose charisma, winning record and ability to drive and motivate players comes anywhere near that of Ferguson.
Nevertheless, after years of steady accumulation under Ferguson, would the rather capricious, impatient and combustible nature of Mourinho really have been suited to a club that not only measures success in the immediate but also in terms of groundwork laid for the future?
Currently, United’s top-line results have not been what Moyes and those who appointed him would have wished.
United have won five of their last six league games but recent cup defeats by Swansea and Sunderland — which followed the New Year’s Day reverse at home to Tottenham — have once again leant United’s season an air of crisis.
Away from the public glare, though, much of Moyes’ work has impressed his employers. There is, believe it or not, more to Premier League management than what happens on the field in the first months of a six-year contract.
Moyes’ rehabilitation of Wayne Rooney, for example, should not be underestimated.
The 28-year-old has played some of his best football for a good while this season.
Moyes, meanwhile, has also managed to bring a contract wrangle with young Adnan Januzaj to a satisfactory conclusion and has started to move out players such as the Brazilian Anderson after recognising the obvious faults to which Ferguson seemed blind.
At Everton, his previous club, Moyes managed for the long term and that is what he is expected to do at Old Trafford.
Mourinho, for all his obvious charms, does not do that.
Two seasons at Porto, three at Chelsea, two at Inter and three at Real Madrid is a career path that tells its own story.
When Ferguson met Moyes at his house in Cheshire last May to offer him the job, the outgoing United manager spoke about a necessary restructuring programme.
The deficiencies evident in the United squad now were clear to both men back then and Ferguson told the younger man that he would be afforded time to address them.
Certainly Moyes has encountered early frustrations.
United’s efforts on his behalf in the summer transfer market were inadequate to say the least.
The set-up behind the scenes at Carrington surprised him a little, hence the appointment of former FA head of performance John Murtough to change it.
Equally, some players have disappointed him in terms of their application.The United manager has borne these problems quietly, though.
It is unlikely that Mourinho would have done the same.
His career history tells us that he would have expected to arrive in Manchester, start spending money and not stop until he was sated.
A little over a year ago the great United icon Sir Bobby Charlton told Sportsmail that he didn’t fancy the cut of Mourinho’s jib.
It is understood that the club’s owners, the Glazer family — partial to a bit of silence — were equally concerned about the ‘noise’ that would have accompanied Mourinho to Old Trafford.
Encountering problems at work is one thing, talking about them in public quite another.Certainly Mourinho’s crash-bang-wallop style of management is sexy.
It fills seats, it generates excitement and it wins trophies. At United, though, they have managed all of that perfectly well without him down the years.When they chose Ferguson’s successor, United decided they wanted not just a manager for today but for tomorrow and the day after. From that point of view at least, there is scant evidence to suggest they made the wrong choice. – Daily Mail