Have your say as our writers debate the merits and pitfalls of Manchester United’s potential capture of the Special One, Jose Mourinho. Is the Portuguese the right man to take over at Old Trafford if Louis van Gaal is axed?
Roy Curtis: YES
IT SEEMS their desperate search for the old narcotic of glory has taken Man United all the way to the crack cocaine of football management.
Those who have experimented with Jose Mourinho as their drug of choice speak with one tumultuous voice of the experience.
Mourinho delivers a short but incredibly intense high.
Chelsea, Real Madrid, Internazionale and Porto are familiar with the roller coaster cycle of addiction: Supreme confidence, brief euphoria, psychological dependency, volatility, paranoia, chaos.
The long-term side-effects suggest sustained exposure to Mourinho’s often toxic, confrontational, high-tariff, enslaving leadership cannot be good for your health.
But United do not have the luxury right now of thinking long term.
What the doleful, cheerless citizens of Old Trafford so urgently require is precisely the fix Mourinho offers: A quick hit of eminence, a passing high to escape the blues and, critically, the Sky Blues.
If that means a spell in rehab three or four years down the line, well that’s the deal with the devil everyone from the Glazers, to Ed Woodward, to the Stretford End is now willing to make.
Because the alternate options for Manchester’s old aristocratic house are grim: Either death by tedium, or by irrelevance.
That an alliance of United and Mourinho – essentially paying the latter £15m-a-year to out alpha-male Pep Guardiola – is, apparently, a done deal should be a cause for Old Trafford celebration.
Mourinho has been recruited not merely to fix a broken club.
He has been hired as a reproach to those who argue that upstart, rolling-in-petrodollar-riches City are poised to overtake the house that Busby built as Manchester and England’s flagship residence.
Desperation has persuaded, compelled United to set to one side any delicacies, to dismiss Bobby Charlton’s concerns about Mourinho’s appetite for conflict as anxieties of a more genteel, bygone era, to willfully ignore the unseemly, anarchic mess he is likely to leave in his wake.
From the ego-crushing moment they were embarrassingly rebuffed by Guardiola, United were simply compelled to recruit a trophy coach.
Mourinho’s record in management is, of course, a wonder of conquest: League titles in four countries, among the tiny elite to have won the Champions League with more than one club.
But this appointment is even more about appearances, about sending out a message, about raising two fingers to City.
As Eamon Dunphy once noted: That’s showbiz, baby.
United are basically playing the big-swinging you-know-what game.
Mourinho may or may not be the best tactician or man-manager available. The truth is that such considerations were entirely secondary.
United desperately required a huge billboard personality, a marquee name to appease shareholders, to animate the terraces, to counter the cross-town arrival of the coaching deity, Guardiola.
Mourinho’s appointment will bring a charge of belief to an organisation that has been marching behind a tattered flag since the furies and volcanic force of will Alex Ferguson supplied were lost.
Jose is box-office, with one villainous flicker of the eyelids he evicts any fears of United as everyday, small, an afterthought.
Man City and Guardiola will have to compete for that coveted slot at the epicentre of the football universe.
Here is the most emphatic statement that Old Trafford is unwilling to thrash about in the dark, to replicate the catastrophic appointment of a small-time provincial boss like David Moyes.
Or a withered individual like Louis van Gaal, wheezing like a washed-out pug, a coach who long since left behind the bright July of his managerial life.
Mourinho’s latest invasion of English football comes with the usual health warnings.
His arch-pragmatist leanings hardly suggest the Theatre of Dreams should expect a sustained return to the artistic Ferguson-era fiesta. Mourinho and Mardi Gras hardly belong in the same sentence
Likewise, his reluctance to invest in youth means United may as well populate their academy with a herd of white elephants.
Inevitably, there will be conflict, controversy, vulgarity, preening and, history tells us, more than likely a third season implosion.
Critically, though, his CV also insists all that aggravation and strife will be preceded by a burst of sunshine, by the accumulation of treasure, by a league table where the words Manchester United are more than a microscopic postscript.
In four of his five high-profile postings, Mourinho has won a trophy in his first season; on the fifth occasion (his Chelsea second coming), the sheen was delivered in season two.
And he has arrested slumps far lengthier than those being endured at Old Trafford.
He bridged a 50-year title gap with Chelsea in 2005; ended Madrid’s 18-year Copa del Rey drought; include his four Super Cups and his trophy count between 2003 and 2015 is 22.
The argument that Chelsea’s recent implosion signifies the best of Mourinho has come and gone seems absurd. Rather, it emphasises that – like crack cocaine – his euphoric impact eventually gives way to crazed paranoia.
But before that, a counterpoint to the stultifying boredom of recent years, United can anticipate a rush of delirium.
As the brisk trade in Mourinho scarves outside Old Trafford illustrates, short-term gain for long-term pain is a trade a starved Stretford End will happily embrace.
Ken Lawrence: No
FEAR AND loathing are not feelings that should be associated with the arrival of a new manager.
Yet that is what many of Man United’s players and staff – including Ryan Giggs – are going through as Jose Mourinho continues to brag behind the scenes that he will replace Louis van Gaal this summer.
These are also feelings that the supporters should be having.
If the Special One was to command centre stage within the Theatre of Dreams, then any hope United’s following have of a return to the cavalier philosophies of Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson will be consigned to history.
Some of those United players who worry they will be axed by Mourinho should, of course, go.
Marouane Fellaini, bought in during David Moyes during his doomed 10 months in charge, remains an insult to the standards that Ferguson set as he swept all before him.
Juan Mata – sold to Moyes by Mourinho in his first season back at Stamford Bridge – is a far more accomplished footballer than the big-haired Belgian, but Mourinho was right get rid of him. He lacks the vital spark that translates ability into match-winning brilliance.
Bastian Schweinsteiger arrived at Old Trafford as a spent force, having once dominated the midfields of Europe. But he simply does not have the legs to regain his former majesty.
Memphis Depay is a waster who should never have been brought in by van Gaal.
LVG should have realised that his fellow Dutchman had an attitude problem after warnings came from the Netherlands about him.
Ashley Young and Marcos Rojo would be two more to be dispensed with and Adnan Januzaj should be sold. He has fantastic talent, but like Memphis he does not have the will, the wit or the work ethic to take it on to the park on a regular basis.
Any manager worth his salt would look to get rid of those seven players – although perhaps not all at once.
Mistakes in recruitment, mistakes in judgement, have been made.
Yet the biggest mistake of all, as United continue to try to move on over two-and-a-half years since Ferguson retired, would be to bring in Mourinho.
If that were to happen, the soul of the club would be gone. And one of the most soul-less men in the game would be taking it away.
It was Mourinho who described himself as the Special One and he was quite right to do so, because it is always all about him.
It is about his ego, his whims, his moods and frequently his madness.
However, when things go wrong, it is never about him.
Just ask Eva Carneiro, who is now suing Chelsea for constructive dismissal after the good doctor dashed on to the pitch early in the season to see to injured Eden Hazard and found herself being treated like a criminal by Mourinho.
Or ask most of the Chelsea dressing room, who to a man found his treatment of Dr Carneiro disgusting and turned on him.
Mourinho has won many trophies. He is, in fact, a serial winner of titles and the Champions League.
But at what cost? And we are not talking about money here – although he does like to spend an awful lot of it.
His football is soul-less, like him; grim, pragmatic, functional, physical. He may get bums on seats, but his brand of the game is not beautiful and it does not lift bums off seats in excitement.
There is also the fact that he has a low boredom threshold.
Mourinho is always like a kid in a candy shop when he goes into a new club and most of the time, to be fair to him, he adds new toys in the shapes of big, shiny trophies.
Yet he gets fed up with his playthings. He always wants more of them – particularly when players lose form, as is only human.
Suddenly the special things of the Special One are thrown out of the pram and the feet begin to stamp.
It is not about attack, attack, attack with him, but more, more, more.
United’s mover and shaker, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, has now made two managerial errors since he succeeded David Gill, who quit with Fergie.
He cannot afford another or the Glazers will use their power of ownership to get rid of him.
Woodward must ask himself if the winning of, say, another Premier League title and a better showing in the Champions League would be worth all the noise and disruption that Mourinho brings to every club.
United are in a dangerous place right now.
Mourinho’s arrival may be seen by some as a great way of giving the finger to Man City, who await a truly special one in Pep Guardiola.
However, Woodward really has to be careful what he wishes for. For Mourinho never stays. He always goes – and always leaves a mess behind him.
And at the world’s most famous club, one that is trying desperately to retain its identity, Mourinho is simply too big a risk to take.