For a manager that has won league titles at each of the last four clubs he has been in charge of, it might seem odd to believe that winning another with his new team would represent his finest achievement yet.
But lifting the Premier League trophy next May with Manchester United would prove to be Jose Mourinho’s crowning glory.
It’s a strange sentiment to hold, particularly when his summer investment is heading towards £200 million, but the fact Jose is inheriting a club in decline should not be ignored.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal have been abject failures as Manchester United managers. There’s an element of the turbulence which followed Sir Matt Busby’s retirement in the 1970s; the United legend had to come out of retirement to steady the ship, and there have been rumours that the board gave consideration to Ferguson doing the same.
But the hierarchy opted for Mourinho instead and secured their favoured target. The Portuguese has managed some of Europe’s biggest clubs, including two spells at Chelsea in the Premier League and a period with Real Madrid in Spain. He has also been successful in European competition with two Champions League trophies to his name with Inter and Porto. None of these clubs were suffering a decline quite as steep as the one United are facing at this moment in time, and as such, Mourinho has is work cut out.
Porto were in a three-horse race each season for the title, and he took the club to their expected level. The same applied at Real Madrid, Inter and both times at Chelsea, he inherited good squads and won the title.
His spans have always ended in rancour. Porto disintegrated as key players left and Mourinho jumped ship as well. His strained relationship with the board at Chelsea then led to his first departure from Stamford Bridge in 2007, and after being aghast with his behaviour last season, Abramovich again decided to sack the ‘Special One’ in 2015.
Mourinho arrived in Manchester at a time when Pep Guardiola is down the road, and Antonio Conte has taken over at Chelsea. Some of Europe’s brightest coaching minds are in the Premier League, and all want success. All also have success demanded of them.
That is the first part of his problem; next season’s Premier League is likely to be highly competitive and tactical. There is no question that tactically Mourinho will be fine; he is arguably the best in the world at adapting to game situations. His biggest issue however, is likely to be dealing with expectations in such a competitive environment, which Van Gaal and Moyes have both shown to be an incredibly difficult task.
Manchester United are expected to win but also to do so with style; swagger and panache are as important as any names on the team sheet. Mourinho will have to forgo his naturally defensive style to win over the crowd.
The arrival of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as well as the imminent signing of Paul Pogba, show he has grasped that aspect of his role, and will undoubtedly excite the Old Trafford faithful. United’s board were keen to question Mourinho on his willingness to adapt his style and assurances were delivered, but when the going gets tough will the Portuguese revert to what he does best?
He can’t afford to as his predecessor Van Gaal found out the hard way; lose the crowd, lose your job.
Keeping his instinct in check while winning the Premier League would make this his greatest triumph.