Comment: Image is everything in football and Jose Mourinho now needs to build on his new start
A football manager should never underestimate the impact his mood can have players and maybe now Manchester United fans can dare to believe they will belatedly get the cheeky, likeable, charming Jose Mourinho managing their club after he confirmed he is extending his stay at OId Trafford by signing a new contract.
The photograph United used to confirm Mourinho’s extended deal on Thursday captured the Portuguese tactician wearing an expression that has rarely been seen during his tenure as the club’s manager.
Smiles have rarely cracked Mourinho’s moody face since he grumbled his way through his first press conference at United and navigated his way through what appeared to be a painful first season in what was been described as ‘the dream job’ for this serial winner.
Mourinho struggled to raise a smile as he lifted the EFL Cup to celebrate his first trophy success as United manager last February and while he showed relieved joy following the Europa League win in Stockholm last May, his grumpiness has always overshadowed his joy over the last season and a half.
Still living in Manchester Lowry Hotel and content for his family to remain in his home in London, his recent hints that he may be tempted to make a move to Paris Saint-Germain added fuel to the theory that Mourinho was not enjoying his tenure as the front man for the world’s richest football club.
Even in triumph, Mourinho seem agonised, with his despair in defeats so acute that he has regularly lashed out at his players in frustration as he lost a few too many battles in the media that he always used to win in his formative days in English football.
Yet Mourinho now has everything he wants and at last, it seems he is ready to smile again.
After putting pressure on United officials to spend more money in the transfer market, their capture of Alexis Sanchez from under the noses of local rivals Manchester City and his old foe Pep Guardiola was a coup that would have appealed to Mourinho’s competitive spirit on a variety of levels.
That, it seems, was the evidence he needed to confirm that United would give him the backing he wants to chase down Guardiola's City and it can only be hoped that Mourinho will, at last, start to enjoy the experience of being manager of Manchester United.
Those of us in the London media pack who had the privilege of attending Mourinho's press briefings during his first spell as Chelsea manager recall the cheeky devil who poked fun at himself as much as his rivals. This guy was great to be around and we looked forward to our weekly audiences at Chelsea's dilapidated old Harlington training GHQ, but the scars of battle on and off the field have taken their toll on him and some of that fun has been stripped from his soul.
Yet now he has a chance to peel back the pages of history and look to a brighter future. Forget about vendettas from match officials directed at him, ignore the idea that the fixture list his set-up to undermine his team. These are all smoke screens we have heard time and again....excuses that have long since become tiresome.
Mourinho doesn't have a bad lot earning a reported £15m-a-year to be United manager and if that kind of windfall does not make you smile, nothing will
As Ireland boss Martin O’Neill highlighted in his latest painful interview with RTÉ’s Tony O’Donoghue earlier this week, a manager who bears a grudge and choose a media platform to display those gripes to the world is actually harming his own reputation, as well as presenting a negative image for paymasters that has given them the task of acting as front men for their organisation.
O’Neill and Mourinho have both let themselves down at times in their media appearances over the last 18 months, but both now have a chance to step away from the past and start a fresh chapter in a week when they have both put pen to paper on new contracts.