Sports Monks

It is time for Jose Mourinho to move on and evaluate himself  

One of the most quoted dialogues from The Dark Knight is “you either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself turn into a villain.” Right now, this is a quote that finds a complete association with Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.

When he came to the Premier League for the first time as the manager of Chelsea, he exuded a sort of confidence that hadn’t been witnessed in a manger before – at least not as explicitly as the Portuguese oozed.

He had the audacity to label himself as the Special One and the acumen to back up his claims. He came to Chelsea after winning the Champions League title with Porto and left the Blues after winning two Premier League titles with them.

After that, he flew to Italy and took over Inter. It was with the Nerazzurri where he stamped his authority as one of the greatest managers of all time, winning an unprecedented treble in 2010.

Up until this point, Mourinho’s CV made it very hard for anyone to argue against the notion that he is the best in the world.

Then Real Madrid came calling. And he accepted. It was a decision that changed everything and not all changes are good. After three years with the Galacticos, he lost the respect of most of the senior and influential players of the dressing room.

Once again, he joined Chelsea to complete the unfinished business that he had with them. However, in his third season, he fell out with most of his players and was sacked midway into the season.

In 2016, he joined Manchester United, taking over from Louis van Gaal. A little over two seasons later, Mourinho once again finds himself in an ominous position as he faces the risk of being sacked by his employers.

Since managing the Galacticos, Mourinho’s life has been very, very different. So much that it can be classified into two segments: before Real Madrid and after Real Madrid.

Before Real Madrid, he was a manager capable of instilling a winning mentality into his teams. Not only that, his tactical perspicacity coupled with his ability to drive his players into executing his plans made him a manager any team would love to have.

However, after Real Madrid, it became clear that a lot of factors have to be in place for the Portuguese to succeed.

For starters, the teams where he succeeded were either not prominent historically or weren’t highly regarded in the present football fraternity.

While FC Porto were and are a big club in Portugal, their history in Europe doesn’t put them among the top echelons of club football. Meanwhile, Chelsea had only won a top-flight season of English football once before the Portuguese took over.

And then comes Inter Milan. While the pedigree of the Italian club can’t be questioned, it can’t be denied that when Jose Mourinho took over Inter, they weren’t really regarded as one of the best clubs in Europe.

Domestically, Inter were struggling pre-Calciopoli and only won three titles in a row before Mourinho came because Juventus were no longer a superpower after being inflicted by the Calciopoli.

Even then, Roberto Mancini barely managed to win the Serie A in 2007-08 and was sacked at the end of that season. In Europe, the last they had won the premier competition was in 1965.

Mourinho came in at a time when Inter had no competition in the domestic circuit and no respect in Europe.

When a team doesn’t have a certain level of status in the world of football, it is easier to manage the players of those teams. After all, the egos aren’t as flared as it is in a giant of a team and it is subsequently easier to make the players subservient to the manager.

The flaws of Mourinho began to be exposed once he joined the Blancos. Madrid, at the time, might have been suffering from a ‘barren run’ of 8 years in the Champions League but they were still always regarded as one of the favourites to win the competition despite failures of the recent past.

At the Bernabeu, there were characters like Iker Casillas, who had already tasted Champions League success before Mourinho’s arrival, Sergio Ramos, who won the Euros and World Cup with Spain under the leadership of Iker Casillas in 2008 and 2010, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The former Manchester United star already had one Ballon d’Or and Champions League title under his belt at the time. Xabi Alonso, too, was a Champions League winner.

In short, that Madrid team had a lot of big-name individuals. And in his third season, Mourinho had lost the respect of both the captain and the vice-captain, Casillas and Ramos, as well as the best player, Cristiano Ronaldo.

The same thing happened with Chelsea in his second tenure. While the Blues are a club that was moulded by him in the mid-2000s, he returned to a different Chelsea in 2013.

By now, the Londoners had already won one European title and had some of the best players in the world defending their colours. Once again, Mourinho failed to manage the egos in the dressing room and was sacked midway in his third season.

And now, in his third season with Manchester United, he has once again fallen out with influential players of the team.

After all of this, it is easy to infer that Mourinho’s failure with handling dressing room characters is deeply rooted with a trait that he himself possesses in abundance: ego.

The Portuguese’s giant ego makes it imperative for him to be the leader in the dressing room and exert his dominance – or positional ‘superiority’ – over his players.

His ego has blinded him to the point that he fails to see the commercial power that some of his players possess. These are the players that he should be bringing on his side because that is the only way he could succeed.

And yet, his major fall-outs have all been against players who held positions of great reverence in the dressing room.

Mourinho, for the third time running, has failed to rectify his biggest problem. He should have taken a leaf out of his idol Sir Alex Ferguson’s book and understood that star players can no longer be treated like subordinates.

This is something Sir Alex realized after his rift with David Beckham and Ruud van Nistelrooy. As a result, he used a different methodology with Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. And to this day, the duo share a great bond.

What Mourinho has to realise is that even someone like Sir Alex – who was at United for over two decades – didn’t try to impose a sense of hierarchal superiority over his star players in the late 2000s.

What Mourinho has to realise is that he needs the star players of his team to be on his side to succeed. This is what allowed Zinedine Zidane to succeed at Real Madrid. Despite not being tactically sound, he managed to win three Champions League title in a row as well as a league title in his tenure of two-and-a-half-years.

Mourinho’s management methods make his beliefs apparent: that the manager has to be on top of everything and assert his position superiority over his players. In the process, he forgets the most basic thing: that nobody – not even the manager – is above the team. 

Managing the individuals in a team is always the most fundamental part of management. While in-game tactics and intricacies play a role in determining the result of a game, it is always the handling of the egos in the dressing room that comes first.

If a manager fails at that, all else is bound to fail. And Mourinho has been failing at it for quite some time now.

As a result, it is imperative for the former Porto boss to move on from his post at Manchester United – because there is no way he can undo or repair the situation at the dressing room in Old Trafford – and take a break to evaluate his methods.

Only then will he realise that it is not about him – it is always about the team.

Always.

 

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