Thursday 22 March 2018

Cristiano Ronaldo: Jose Mourinho can restore Man United's lost identity

Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo during their days together at Real Madrid
Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo during their days together at Real Madrid
Jose Mourinho leaves his house in a car in London yesterday. Photo: Rick Findler/PA Wire

James Ducker

Manchester United will finally announce the appointment today of Jose Mourinho on a three-year contract, convinced they have found the man who can send the club back to the top of English and European football.

As the biggest names in world football lined up to back Mourinho to restore United to former glories after three troubled years following Alex Ferguson's retirement, the Portuguese was busy choosing the words that will accompany a statement to confirm his eagerly-anticipated return to management, 162 days after his sacking at Chelsea.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who worked under Mourinho at Real Madrid, believes his compatriot will enable United to rediscover the identity they lost under Louis van Gaal and David Moyes.

And Mourinho is likely to make an immediate statement of intent in the transfer market with the capture of Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who admitted yesterday that he had already made a decision on his future and would relish the prospect of a reunion with the 53-year-old, under whom he won an Italian title at Inter Milan.

"The future is written," said Ibrahimovic, who is a free agent after leaving Paris Saint-Germain. "I made my choice a long time ago. I just have to push the button." Asked specifically about the prospect of joining United, Ibrahimovic smiled and said: "Let's see what happens" but he was more forthcoming on his belief that Mourinho would transform United's fortunes.

"I've been speaking with him every day since I left Inter, so there is no secret. I have a great relationship with Mourinho and we are in contact, but not in the last weeks."

Talk of Mourinho's arrival in Manchester had been building for months, with United reaching an agreement in principle as far back as February that guaranteed the Portuguese the job in the event Van Gaal was sacked.

United and Mourinho's representatives, as well as lawyers from both parties, have been locked in talks in the past few days to iron out the final details of his over €15 million-a-year contract.

One minor sticking point was the potential conflict of interest between Mourinho's personal car, watch and casino endorsements and those of the club but the manager has retained all of his image rights and all negotiations have been successfully concluded. Despite widespread reports about Chelsea still owning the trademark to Mourinho's name, it is understood that the Portuguese retrieved those rights.

United are now planning the statements and press releases that will accompany official confirmation of the appointment. The club will not have to wait until the New York Stock Exchange opens at 2.30pm Irish time today to announce the appointment as such restrictions do not apply but they can if they wish.


"I hope United get back to being what they were because it's an impressive club but in the last years they lacked an identity a bit," added Ronaldo. "And it hurts me seeing United like that because it's a club I carry in my heart. I wish Mourinho can restore them back to the top."

United remain eager to re-sign Ronaldo, but with no Champions League football at Old Trafford next season, that may prove difficult this summer, even if Real could be tempted to sell with a huge offer for the 31-year-old.

Ronaldo, who has two years left on his contract, has little interest in a move to PSG given the French league's shortcomings and would favour a return to the Premier League with United if he did leave the Bernabeu. He still owns a house in Cheshire, which he rents out.

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