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Jose Mourinho’s loss of charisma killing Manchester United as a football superpower

Jose Mourinho likes to paint himself as the saviour and the underdog; his career plan has been built in such a way, to bring unprecedented success to himself and the clubs he works for. That attitude first made football, particularly English football, fall in love with him, but now the admiration, which was once worldwide, is now evaporating and being replaced by disdain.


Jose was king of the press conference

It is his press conferences that best show his changing perception; in years gone by, he had approached talking to the media before a game like an extension of the opening ten minutes of the match itself. Genuinely funny, cheeky, flamboyant remarks endeared him to journalists asking the questions and recording his every word; fully aware that his team may not be the most talented in whatever league he was coaching in, he knew he had to go into the game ahead mentally; the mind games became his trademark, almost everything he once said was analysed over and over again as if there was some sort of hidden meaning, but not now. He has lost that Midas touch with the media.

That was how he won the UEFA Cup and Champions League with FC Porto; that was how he clinched successive titles with Chelsea in his first spell 50 years after the Blues’ last success and that was how he got Inter crowned European champions in 2010, winning the first Italian treble in history. Mourinho revelled in producing the unexpected and became a hero for the ‘little guy’; it is no wonder each of those clubs struggled for years without him. He had a point to prove; the Nerazzurri lifted the Champions League trophy at the Santiago Bernabeu, and it is there where the old, masterful, genius Mourinho ceased to exist because he was no longer a true underdog.

When he went to Real Madrid weeks after that triumph, he was tasked with putting a stop to the dominance of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona. They had won the previous two LaLiga crowns and, after Mourinho’s Inter knocked them out at the Champions League semi final, he was tasked with breaking the cycle. On the face of it, the underdog, siege mentality act should have worked, and it did for a while. He would bark at Guardiola, at referees, at fixture congestion in his press conferences, anything he needed to get his team to win. But the old charisma had gone.


In 2012, he succeeded in prizing the league title away from Barça and Guardiola; the Catalan even stepped down as a result of Mourinho’s torment. But the cost of that success, his unpopularity with the Spanish journalists and all those sneering comments meant he walked away from Los Blancos a year later after finishing second again and without fully reasserting Real at the top of the European tree. He’d won the battle in Spain, but lost the war. Real Madrid expected more; winning at all costs is not acceptable at the biggest club in the world.

Four years on and Mourinho is 18 months into his reign at Real’s only real marketing competitor, Manchester United. His second spell at Chelsea went very much the way of his Real Madrid career; it started well with another Premier League crown, but ended in such disastrous fashion that his once legendary status with the Blues fans is now compromised.


Too many excuses, Jose

On Boxing Day, after a late Jesse Lingard brace salvage a 2-2 draw against Burnley, Mourinho took to his regular post-match press briefing. Faced with severe questions about his work at Old Trafford, following the second successive four-goal draw in a week, the Red Devils boss played his old trick; deflecting attention. But the spell he had over the media is no more and, not for the first time in his career, he was left tasting sour grapes with very poor excuses. Once again, Guardiola is a direct rival, currently leading Manchester City on a record-breaking title charge. At the time of writing, they hold a 12-point lead at the top, but rather than acknowledge his old foe’s brilliant team, or his own shortcomings, Mourinho instead lamented City’s spending power, claiming the £300million he has spent at Old Trafford is not enough to compete.

He may have been trying to send a thinly-veiled message to his board about January transfer funds, but even if that is true, given the money spent since Mourinho came in and even before that, they would be more than entitled to question the results and playing style. Guardiola has never really failed as a manager by playing a progressive, ever-evolving system; his work on the training ground is unrivalled. Mourinho has spent a similar amount of money in his career, but just as with Real Madrid, Manchester United are a proud club with expectations well beyond the self preservation that Mourinho serves up on and off the pitch.

What made Mourinho so successful in the early part of his career was that he was the most ambitious person in his surroundings. He was going to be the man to teach clubs how to be successful, but having struggled to implement the same attitudes on the biggest clubs in the world, mainly because they already have them. He beginning to look as though he is not big enough himself.

Jose Mourinho may not be wrong that the Manchester United team he inherited needed work to make it compete again, but he hasn’t done enough to make progress, especially given Guardiola’s work across the city. Throughout his career, his ideology has centred on galvanising clubs who haven’t achieved everything, but he needs to get his bullish charisma back if he is to truly reinvent one that has.

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