Durban - Jose Mourinho has come under much criticism in recent years. Prior to his current job with AS Roma, his two previous spells with Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United failed to live up to expectations.
The Spurs spell was arguably the worst in Mourinho’s entire career as it is the only club where he failed to lift a trophy. It must be added that the self-proclaimed “Special One” led the Lilywhites to the final of the 2020/21 League Cup but was not in the dugout in the final. His sacking meant that then interim manager Ryan Mason was in charge for the final.
However, Mourinho’s Europa Conference League success this past season with Roma proved beyond any reasonable doubt that his tactics are not outdated. It will also go down as one of the most special achievements of his legendary career, when considering its context.
While Carlo Ancelotti made history last season by becoming the first man to win all of Europe’s top five leagues, Mourinho made history by becoming the first man to win all of Europe’s football competitions, namely the Champions League, Europa League and now the Conference League.
Some will say that the Europa Conference League is a “minor trophy”. However, it may have been the tonic that Roma needed to achieve their long term aim of being one of Italy’s top sides. The Giallorossi’s success in the Conference League was their first trophy in 14 years and their first European final in 31 years.
Not even Italian legends Francesco Totti or Daniele De Rossi could help the club achieve success in European competition but Mourinho did.
Mourinho’s classical tactics worked wonders for Roma in their Conference League final against Feyenoord. He utilised a 5-3-2 formation, allowing the opposition to maintain the ball while also ensuring that the players whom they viewed as weaklings were in possession for large segments of the game.
They never looked to be in trouble and punished Feyenoord during counter-attacks.
Roma may not have come close to challenging for the Serie A title last season but there is no doubt that Mourinho brought the club improvement after working with limited resources.
The team he inherited underwent minimal change from the season before he took charge.
The only notable names that he added ahead of his term were Tammy Abraham and Rui Patricio. Even Abraham was an out-of-form striker when Mourinho signed him and many suggested that the ex-Chelsea man may not live up to his full potential. Patricio was a keeper who was not really regarded as Champions League material.
Roma is understandably not an easy club to win trophies with as they have significantly less resources compared to the elite clubs in Europe. Mourinho knew that his mandate would be a long rebuild rather than leading the club to glory immediately. He has achieved his first goal which was to get the club playing with fluency again and added a trophy as a bonus.