By William Fremont-Barnes
Manchester United’s desire for a seamless succession has been scuppered within a matter of months. Outclassed, outmuscled and outthought by Champions League hopefuls Everton on Sunday, this timid defeat was symptomatic of a campaign characterised by inexplicable mediocrity.
It was the end of the road for David Moyes, ruthlessly removed by the Glazers after witnessing confirmation of what has become manifest during the season: that the club he left in the summer have benefited from his departure, whereas the champions he inherited have morphed into a bunch of also-rans before our very eyes.
Moyes will be back. He spent more than a decade making a mockery of his critics at Goodison Park, only to abandon the methods which earned him success the moment he hit the big time. Shrugging off the tag of being Alex Ferguson’s calamitous successor may be impossible, even when he emerges from this ordeal as a better manager. Moyes’ next club will profit from his desperation for redemption as well as his undoubted ability.
Both parties must learn from their mistakes. United can ill-afford to make such a mess of this latest managerial search. Rather than choosing a candidate in the mould of Ferguson, whose longevity was based on a distinctive brand of man-management impossible to replicate; Chief Executive Ed Woodward needs to find someone with a proven track record, capable of delivering success during a difficult transition period.
Jose Mourinho ticks every box. United are a European powerhouse, an elite club in need of an elite manager. Where Moyes was overwhelmed by the task of managing at the highest level, deferential to senior players, Mourinho has the personality and pedigree to thrive in a high-pressure environment.
Like him or loathe him, Mourinho is a natural winner, whose insatiable appetite for silverware fuels his win at all costs mentality which sets him apart from the rest. If winning the Champions League with unfancied Porto ten years ago was not enough, he then repeated the trick at Inter Milan in 2010, instantly transforming a team of perennial underachievers into European champions.
United are a club crying out for that kind of inspiration. With two European Cups and a title in every country where he has coached, Mourinho is undoubtedly the outstanding manager of our generation.
His record is quite simply staggering, so United cannot be picky about Mourinho’s behaviour and style of football. Whilst his teams are not renowned for their attacking approach, there was nothing boring about his Real Madrid side which smashed the all time La Liga goal-scoring record in 2011-12. Equally, Chelsea have been extremely entertaining to watch this season, relying on the creativity of Eden Hazard and Oscar to conceal their lack of firepower up front.
At times his antics border on the verge of objectionable. His paranoia about refereeing conspiracies, unsavoury conduct on the touchline and confrontational man-management techniques are all part of Mourinho’s flawed make-up.
Yet if all that sounds familiar, it is because those same accusations can be levelled at Ferguson, who ruled at Old Trafford with an iron fist, often prioritising the club’s interests at the expense of basic decency. United are in no position to consider Mourinho’s churlish behaviour beneath them after 26 years of autocratic rule.
There is, of course, the small matter of Mourinho’s current employment at Chelsea. Roman Abramovich is unlikely to let him walk away from the substantial commitment he made last summer, though the signs of tension between manager and owner have resurfaced worryingly quickly.
There was always a sense that Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge was merely a marriage of convenience. His reputation among Chelsea fans would never recover if he left this summer, but Mourinho has shown little regard for public perception in the past.
The managerial position at United is the most prestigious club job in the country, which is why they cannot afford to waste their time with another second-rate candidate. Mourinho would surely be persuaded by the lure of Old Trafford, proving a point to those who considered him unsuitable for the role last summer. He thrives on the opportunity to revive once great footballing institutions. These special circumstances call for the special one.