Mark Keohane, writing for IOL Sport, reflects on the success of Jose Mourinho over his managerial career as well as his relative success at Spurs – before being sacked – given the inadequacy of his squad.
To those who say Jose Mourinho is too conservative and his tactics outdated: I say he is a star that will never die out. I believe his axing as Spurs boss is neither a setback nor the end of his managerial career.
Jose hasn’t said much about his Spurs departure but if he had to speak, he would borrow from Mark Twain and declare: ‘Rumours of my death have been grossly exaggerated.’
Mourinho’s managerial career is very alive. He will ultimately end up in charge of Portugal’s national side, when he tires of club football, but for now he will resurface in a top league and at one of the best clubs.
Take that as a given.
He will forever be the Special One because of what he has achieved. That can never be taken away from him.
I loved his retort to Manchester United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when Mourinho’s Spurs lost 3-1 in what would be his last game in charge.
Mourinho told Solskjaer: ‘I have won Premier Leagues, Champions Leagues, La Liga, Serie A … you have won three points.’
Those celebrating Mourinho’s axing at Spurs also delight in the manner of his exit at Manchester United. It was very sudden.
The latter are in the League Cup final on Sunday and still in a position to get a top four Premier League finish. This from a Spurs team that is more a top 10 than a top four team.
Former Manchester United midfielder turned television analyst Roy Keane a month ago blasted critics of Mourinho for refusing to acknowledge the limited squad at his disposal. Keane also hit back in a live television exchange with former Liverpool and England player turned analyst Jamie Redknapp, who had bemoaned Spurs’s struggle to be in the top four.
‘Before he (Mourinho) came in and took the job, Spurs had gone a year without winning away from home. There is a softness in this Spurs team. They have been soft for 40 years.’
For context to Mourinho’s tenure at Manchester United, he lost 28 matches in 144, with a winning percentage of 58.3%. Only Sir Alex Ferguson’s 59.7 winning percentage is better. In 2017/18, he also led a fragile United squad to second place in the league behind the incomparable Manchester City and won the Europa Cup and League Cup in 2016/17. Some managers have spent a decade at a big club and not had this kind of return. Jose’s time at Manchester United was no failure, even if his final season was a struggle, but no more of a struggle than we have seen, for example, this season with Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp.
Spurs have been the perennial underachievers of English football and even though they made the Champions League final a couple of years ago, they were comfortably beaten by Liverpool. Mauricio Pochettino spent several years with Spurs and was lauded for four top four league finishes in five seasons and for making the Champions League final. His 159 wins were also the most by a Spurs manager in the post-war era.
But he won no silverware and his teams, despite being in the top four, never threatened to win the league. It didn’t make his term at Spurs a failure. No one mocked him on the way out and rightly so because within a week of arriving at French club Paris St Germain, he’d won his first trophy.
PSG are also in the Champions League semi-final.
Pochettino’s lack of titles and trophies at Spurs didn’t make him a poor manager. His teams were simply not good enough. Ditto the Spurs squad managed by Jose.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jose pop up at Bayern Munich and add to his domestic and European trophy collection.
Mourinho, as a reminder to his haters, has won a domestic title in a record four different countries, Portugal, England, Italy and Spain. He is one of only three managers to have won the Champions League twice with two clubs (FC Porto in 2004) and Inter Milan in 2010 and he is also a three-time Premier League champion with Chelsea (2005, 2006 and 2015).
He broke Barcelona’s stranglehold as La Liga champions, when at Real Madrid, and in 2010 did the treble of Serie A, Italian Cup and Champions League with Inter Milan.
Mourinho wins trophies, lots of them, but he also gets results.
He described his second-place league finish with Manchester United as among his greatest achievements, given the strength of the Premier League and the limitations of his playing squad in 2017/18.
When Spurs fired Pochettino and lured Mourinho back to England 17 months ago, the club was 14th in the Premier League. At the end of the season, under Mourinho, they finished sixth.
This season, when Mourinho got fired, they were seventh and a win away from breaking into the top four, which they did in the first match post his departure. They will also play Manchester City in the final of the League Cup on Sunday.
Many have taken pleasure at Mourinho packing his bags at Spurs after just 86 matches in charge of a team whose last trophy success was the League Cup in 2008.
Mourinho at times made plodders look like professional footballers at Spurs, but not even he could transform chumps into champs.
Spurs, for the record, aren’t that good and Mourinho isn’t that bad.
He remains The Special One and he will add to his 25 trophies before Spurs ever win the Premier League.