Jose Mourinho’s second contract deal spells trouble for Manchester United
The second Chelsea contract of Jose Mourinho’s second spell at the club was announced late on a Friday in August 2015 just a few hours after he had made no mention of it at a press conference, with the inescapable feeling then that neither side thought it a particularly good idea.
By that stage, the strains of that summer were already manifest, including his opposition to the sale of Petr Cech to Arsenal and the subsequent lack of transfer activity to add to the team which had won his third Premier League title the previous May. Chelsea were well aware that recent history had seen Mourinho’s contract renewals end about as happily as the average Thomas Hardy novel, and so it proved again.
He had signed his second deal as manager of Real Madrid in May 2012 having won the club’s first title in four years, this new contract also being the culmination of various internal battles for power and influence. His reward for prevailing was a new deal until 2016, and his reward for failing to repeat the trick in the following season was to depart in acrimony one year into that new contract.
Much the same question will be asked in the next few weeks at Old Trafford.
Will there be another contract for the man sitting on what is surely the longest-running room service tab in the history of the Lowry Hotel? And if so, what will be the consequences? “We should have done a second series with him in the hotel,” Steve Coogan reflected in the BBC documentary chronicling the greatness of Alan Partridge. Should Manchester United’s most high-profile hotel-dweller get another series? Or dare they contemplate change?
Doing neither is not an option if the biggest-grossing club in the Premier League is to have some direction going into next season. Entering the final year of his three-year contract without resolution would be a nightmare for both parties, the man himself sulking catastrophically – undermined, unhappy, unable to stop himself blaming each setback on the issue. The club looking rudderless, and assailed at every juncture with questions about the future.
As things stand, he will not be a title winner going into his third season, as he was at Real Madrid and Chelsea when a new contract felt more of an obligation. At United, a new contract feels like it would only be a gesture of permanence that will not solve the obvious points of incompatibility.
This is the decision facing United in the coming weeks: are they willing to place their future in the hands of Mourinho? If they are to prepare the ground for change, then that will have to start now, with all the difficulty it would entail, because, by the summer, it may already be too late to get the right replacement.
In second place but 15 points off Manchester City, his season is hard to measure, so it comes down to a question of where the club are heading and what vision the manager has for his team. Mourinho (right) was never going to reinvent himself to make United feel better about themselves as a club with a history of attractive football, because, after 16 years at the top, he is bemused by the notion that he should change.
At Chelsea, a club who never had a modern tradition of playing a certain way and lacked a defining managerial figure in their history before Mourinho’s arrival in 2004, he was unencumbered by those expectations. At United, where the commercial machine is based upon selling a certain view of the club’s tradition as thrilling and bold, it presents much greater problems when the man in charge of the team is yoked unapologetically to a different way of doing it.
There are details that Mourinho would point to, such as his determination in the summer to sign Ivan Perisic, whom he thought would offer the team a better attacking dimension and might have had the added benefit of being in keeping with United’s history of wingers. But, still, it is hard to see how the current situation would be conducive to a new contract, other than United knowing that not to agree one would create more problems.
Mourinho has done his bit for United in the post-Alex Ferguson era and the two trophies last season were significant. He may even be right when he says that the £300 million spent on players during his reign “is not enough” when one considers the kind of money that has been lavished by Paris Saint-Germain on Neymar. But those discussions are corrosive when had in public and look like a manager casting around for someone else to blame.
It goes back to the basic premise of a manager who lives in a hotel, insinuating that United have failed to persuade enough of the best footballers in the world to relocate to the same city in which he has conspicuously failed to lay down any roots.
Not every manager lasts long enough in his job to unpack the furniture in a new home, but that is a different proposition to choosing to exist one hasty checkout away from leaving it all behind.
In that way, Mourinho seems to have been preparing for his exit from the start. Yet, by the same token, a new contract at United will feel to him like his due, the affirmation of his power and influence at his club and the uplift in salary, too.
After all, that is what he has always chased wherever he has been, but this is a decision that will define United’s future, and how their manager behaves and performs in the coming weeks will, by extension, define his too. (© Daily Telegraph, London)