Comment: Man United would be signing a pact with the devil by appointing Jose Mourinho
It’s tempting to imagine Jose Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes spending the festive period advising Manchester United chief executive Ed Woodward on the merits of Faustian pacts.
Woodward must know United would win the Premier League within three years with Mourinho. He would guide them back to the latter stages of the Champions League, too. Logic and history tells us this. The only obstacle can be the fear United might as well be signing such a contract with blood.
The Mourinho at Manchester United question is not about the success of the club but its soul. With a devil already established in the badge at Old Trafford, extending his presence to the dug-out demands deeper consideration.
A full 24 hours have passed since the last public and private statement reiterating how uneasy Mourinho is about being linked with jobs others are still in, whether it’s in Manchester or Madrid. Just in case anyone had forgotten, Jose’s very available, definitely ready, extremely willing and still waiting for the executives at Old Trafford and the Bernabeu to get on with it, but he’d never be so disrespectful to turn up the stadium until a sacking is confirmed.
Louis Van Gaal has no cause to get the first flight back to Amsterdam’s red light district to see such a grand exhibition of eyelid fluttering.
With Chelsea in town this evening, there is a chance all four corners of the stadium will be singing Mourinho’s name. What began as an advisory whisper to Woodward in danger of perforating his eardrum.
Woodward’s next move will define where United are heading for the foreseeable future. It’s tough enough for a Manchester United manager to work under one shadow. Van Gaal currently has three to deal with.
Either the next United boss will have Ryan Giggs' enduring ambitions to fight off - just like David Moyes prior to Van Gaal - or the eternal question of ‘what might have been?’ will linger if Mourinho and his combustible but successful methods are ignored.
In the background, Sir Alex Ferguson lingers like an occasionally fretful Titan, his sporadic Harvard-based interviews noting how dreadfully it’s all going without him. It was inevitable once Ferguson abandoned football for an academic career that whoever was in the dug-out was obliged to be deferential to his methods and success rate. If this is what the United grandees want, then Giggs – indoctrinated by the Ferguson philosophy – is the obvious choice if (or when) Van Gaal falls.
If, as many suspect, Woodward is more inclined to favour a manager who will redefine the United way as well as replicate Ferguson’s trophy gathering skills, Mourinho should have been in position within 48 hours of his dismissal by Chelsea.
The reluctance of elements at Old Trafford to embrace Mourinho is understandable and absurd in equal measure.
Hear the concerns about cantankerous, anti-authoritarian coaches who care little about how they are perceived in pursuit of success and you wonder if the Ferguson era took place in same parallel universe.
Aside from Ferguson, it is claimed Sir Bobby Charlton must offer United’s version of a Papal blessing to any new incumbent, the suggestion often repeated that Charlton has never been enamoured by Mourinho’s self-absorption. Quite how Van Gaal’s hugely entertaining but increasingly excruciating press conferences slot into Sir Bobby’s idea of presenting the right image of his club must make the board meetings fly.
The difference, of course, is Mourinho’s ‘win now, worry about how knackered they are later’ style is the antithesis to the long-term legacy making in which Ferguson excelled.
Mourinho is in danger of becoming the greatest nomad of the 21st century – a sort of footballing version of Dr Bruce Banner, leaving a trail of destruction from city to city but, despite those mood swings, doing far more good than harm as he picks a new shirt and moves on.
He must be bemused United have not already pounced to secure his greatness, well aware if Woodward picks the fruit from his tree of knowledge success will inevitably follow.
Tonight’s visit of the champions is an example of what makes Mourinho both alluring and unattractive.
It is not just about the quality of the teams he creates, but also what he leaves behind. The longer Van Gaal fails to save himself; Giggs is considered too much of a novice and Pep Guardiola has sights on Manchester blue, the more Woodward must be tempted by Mourinho’s boom and bust.
Unlike under Moyes and Van Gaal, at least there would be a boom.