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Was the shadow of Ferguson too much for Mourinho?


Watching the whole Mourinho/United situation unravel was one of the strangest episodes in football. Arguably, the most famous club in football, managed by the biggest character in football since the days of Brian Clough.

A marriage of commercial significance and a union of convenience, destined to destroy a club’s Premier League ambitions and leave the reputation of its manager in tatters, raising questions about his ability to compete at the highest level.

There has been much analysis of his departure and theories of why this tempestuous partnership failed to live up to expectations.

Mourinho had placed himself on a hand carved pedestal, way above a club that has a massive reputation on a global stage. His deteriorating relationship with his players and those inside the club could go some way to explaining why his dismissal was inevitable.

I have another theory, one that I haven’t heard mentioned by anyone. It’s just an assumption, but one that could have some baring on the events that lead up to that manic Monday, when the news of Mourinho’s departure filled every news outlet around the globe.

United are probably regarded as the biggest club in England and even with the emergence of Manchester City and Liverpool in the last few seasons, that hasn’t changed.

Sir Alex Ferguson cemented that legacy in the shadow of Matt Busby and during his 26 years with Manchester United, he won 38 trophies –  including 13 Premier League titles, five FA cups and two UEFA Champions league titles.

Without question, Ferguson is the most successful manager in English football and it’s unlikely that anyone will ever come close to his achievements.

In 1999, United completed the an historic treble of trophies: the Premier League, FA Cup and the Champions League.

In relative terms, only Zinedine Zidane’s three consecutive Champions League titles with Real Madrid comes close, but Ferguson’s legacy is still ahead of that, simply because he had to rebuild over and over again.

In 2016, Mourinho went to Old Trafford to bring back the glory days, something that the two mangers before him couldn’t do. At the time, Mourinho was viewed as the best manager in the world. ‘The Special One’ was going to take on the Ferguson mantle and prove to everyone how good he was.

Paul Pogba, who it’s rumored fell out with disciplinarian Ferguson, was sold on but Mourinho’s arrogance bought him back. Ferguson had issues with the player, disliked his attitude, his lack of discipline and arrogance but Mourinho was the manager, the best available and Pogba would provide no challenge to him personally, how could he?

It’s an indication of his egotistical nature that he would be the one to succeed where Ferguson has failed and it would appear that he even tried to wear the Ferguson persona. The one that was outspoken and churlish, the defensive passive/aggressive, who walked away when he didn’t like a question or refused to give interviews.

I genuinely believe Mourinho bent himself out of shape to not only take on Ferguson’s legacy but to better it. Something that was doomed to failure.

Ferguson’s relationship was a curious one, based on love, respect and fear. Yet, he was always respectful to the players, chastised them away from prying eyes and never looked to openly criticize them in front of the media.

Jose, took a different approach, one which seemed devoid of any logic and resulted in him sabotaging morale and undermining his own team and players.

It’s the ultimate failure, not on the pitch but behind closed doors. I think he had become consumed by the Scot’s shadow and his success. As a result, he imploded trying to reach heights that were beyond him.

It’s an interesting thought and it may not have been a conscious decision, but the intense pressure to achieve at that level, is enough to drive an individual to the brink.

In years to come, when Mourinho is retired and Manchester United are reinstated as Premier League Champions, it will be noted that two particular judgements would seal Mourinho’s fate, the acquisition of Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez. Both failed to ignite and as a consequence, United began to dismantle.

Defeats followed and the way in which United played made them seem dysfunctional and distinctly average. Mourinho had assembled a team of talent that simply couldn’t play together, he placed round pegs in square holes and spent £400 million in the process.

He is still one of the world’s top managers but as a man manager, he needs to reflect, learn and improve.

The Highbury Flyer
Anti Kroenke , anti Gazidis but always a gooner. Still wishes he could watch from the stands at the Highbury library.

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