So the football world went to sleep on the rumour and awoke to the reality; Sir Alex Ferguson (SAF), manager of Manchester United FC, has decided to take early retirement! This will have been a considered course of action yet the timing has come as a surprise to most of us. Most thought he would stay on for another couple of years, especially with the way his team were eliminated from The European Champions League this season, he would undoubtedly want to avenge that. Especially as SAF had himself indicated very recently his desire to stay on for another couple of campaigns. So – why now? I think the answer has to lie with his preferred successor. And for me all the evidence points towards Jose Mourinho.
It’s no secret that there is a mutual respect as well as a genuine friendship between SAF and Mourinho. And respect from SAF is hard earned even if it is generously given once earned. From Manchester United’s point of view they would be getting a world class manager in Mourinho with a proven track record in both domestic and European football across Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and English divisions. They would be getting a strong personality who would maintain the high profile of the United brand across the world at the very least and, in all probability, raise it.
It’s certainly well known that Mourinho is available for next season and that he wants to return to management in the English Premier League. In the last couple of weeks it has been regarded by most of the press that “Mourinho back at Chelsea” was a done deal. Only yesterday Rafa Benitez practically said as much. And Mourinho has been playing the press for months with similar stories about his return to England. I think it simply got to the point where it’s now or never for Manchester United and Jose Mourinho.
But, apart from the obvious, if he were to come back to the EPL, why would Mourinho choose Manchester United over Chelsea?
Well for one thing he’s been there, done that with Chelsea. He has experienced life under Roman Abramovich so why would he feel the need to do that again, apart from maybe feeling he had unfinished business there? There have also been reports in the press that were he to return to Chelsea, Mourinho would have to accept working under Michael Emenalo as technical director in charge of player recruitment. Why on earth would he accept that? At United Mourinho would be given the opportunity to build upon the solid foundation that SAF has left, he would have the opportunity to put together his own dream team of players and coaching & backroom staff. He would have the high profile position in world football to amply demonstrate his own ability. And he would have someone he highly respects in SAF to whom he could turn for advice and, more importantly, for information on how United’s hierarchy works.
So where are the flies in this practically perfect pot of ointment? Well, SAF is going to take on a directorial and ambassadorial role with Manchester United. He’ll be the spectre at the feast for all the prospective candidates. And SAF has already stated that the team and club he leaves are in great shape; the implication being whomever takes over couldn’t possibly fail. So any achievements will undoubtedly have to be shared by SAF, at least in the short term. And Mourinho isn’t perfect by any means. He has shown that he isn’t afraid to walk away if things aren’t going his way, if he feels that others are interfering with the running of the team to the detriment of that team. He can be a lose cannon, especially in front of the press. Then again SAF wasn’t adverse to behavior necessitating a trip to Toys R Us to replenish his stock. Although there is no shortage of extremely proficient alternative candidates (with David Moyes undoubtedly at the forefront) whoever takes over is going to need a lot of self-belief and have a very strong personality and there aren’t that many who fit that bill.
So for me it will be Jose Mourinho at Manchester United next season. Oh, and he’ll bring Ronaldo and Lampard along for the ride too.