Date: 28th July 2016 at 9:10am
Written by:

The following article was sent to me by Guy Bennett, it provides a few sobering thoughts for us Manchester United supporters with the author asking whether we have the right man for the job

Is there any evidence – beyond his own self-assessment – that Jose Mourinho is special?

Clearly, Manchester United Vice-chairman Ed Woodward thinks so. On May 27, 2016 he hired Mourinho, declaring:

‘His track record of success is ideal to take the club forward.’

That track record includes 21 trophies over a 15 year period. An impressive haul. But you don`t need to be a master chef to make a delicious salad from expensive ingredients.

If the job of football manager is to get the maximum number of wins from the available players, then you can judge his effectiveness by comparing the quality of his squad against the table position on his last day of coaching.

For the purposes of this discussion, we will use the collective wisdom of the market (team wages) to value the quality of the squad. No, this metric isn`t perfect. But 49 times out of 50, having Chelsea`s Eden Hazard (£185,000 per week) on the pitch gives you a better chance of winning a football game than fielding West Bromwich Albion`s Gareth McAuley (£8,462 per week).

A manager`s skill must be judged in the context of player quality. No-one could reasonably expect Bournemouth`s manager Eddie How (team wages £25 million) to get the same number of wins as Manchester City`s manager, Manuel Pellegrini (team wages £203 million).

My Manager`s Effectiveness Rating (MER) is the statistical gap between the team wages ranking, and the final table position. If you manage a team with the 10th highest wages, and you finish 8th, that gives you and MER of +2. If you finish 20th with the same team, you get a -10.

Ten times out of the last 13 years, (with Porto, Chelsea, Interazionale, Real Madrid and Chelsea again) – Mourinho`s team had the highest wages in the league. In these years, he can reasonably be expected to win the league – which he did 79% of the time (giving him an MER of zero for those trophy seasons). The other 21% of the time, his teams under-performed and finished with an MER of -1, -1 and -15.

In 2011 with Real Madrid he had the 2nd highest team wages, and finished 2nd. In 2014 with Chelsea he had the 3rd highest team wages and finished 3rd. Just once in 13 years, Mourinho had positive MER: in 2015 Chelsea won the league with the 3rd highest wages (an MER of + 2). Over the last 13 years, his cumulative MER is -15.

History suggests that club owners must spend heavily to get results under Mourinho. Clearly he is no Claudio Ranieri (2016 MER +17). Mourinho lacks the skill-set to lead a group of infantrymen into battle against a better equipped army. To get good results, the preening Portuguese boss requires big, expensive weapons.

In 2016-2017, Manchester United is projected to have the 2nd highest wage bill in the English Premier League (EPL). So the team will probably avoid relegation. But fans anticipating aesthetically pleasing football or a league trophy are likely to be disappointed.

By all accounts, Mourinho is a manipulator – not an innovator. ‘His methods are exhausting,” stated former Chelsea striker Demba Ba. “He convinces you that if you do what he tells you to do, it will bring results,” stated former Porto player Deco. ‘He squeezes out what he doesn’t like,” recalled Xabi Alonso.

“We build very well from the back,” confirms Mourinho, “We have a very good ball possession we don`t play counter-attack.” This low-risk mechanical style requires followers, not leaders. That`s why Mourinho sells imaginative players like Kevin de Bruyne, Juan Mata and Arjen Robben, and hangs onto diligent proletarians like Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry.

Manchester United fans should now be asking themselves two questions:

1. To what extent is Mourinho`s effectiveness based on his ‘winning mystique`?

2. Is this mystique still intact?

To remember the power of Mourinho`s mystique, let`s go back to 2004 when the new Chelsea manager confronted Chelsea mid-fielder Frank Lampard after a training session.

“I was standing in the shower cleaning my balls,” recalled Lampard, “he tells me, ‘you`re the best player in the world, but you need to win titles.` He has that air of arrogance, that confidence, and it rubs off. Not that I thought I was the best player in the world.”

Eleven years ago, Mourinho inspired Lampard to be a better player by telling him a lie so transparent that Lampard himself knew he was being gamed.

Fast forward 11 years to August 2015: while the other 19 EPL teams were training, Mourinho gave his players a month’s holiday. Chelsea subsequently lost all of their pre-season games, including a 4-2 defeat to the New York Red Bulls – a social-athletic club for retired international footballers.

Last year, Chelsea began its title defense with a home game against Swansea City. With Chelsea reduced to 10 men, Eden Hazard was fouled by the Swansea captain. Hazard fell to the ground and stayed there. The team doctor, Eva Carneiro, ran onto the pitch to treat him. Fifa rules state that Hazard then had to leave the field, temporarily reducing Chelsea to nine men.

After the match Mourinho had nothing critical to say about his own game tactics. Instead he told the assembled media, “My medical staff were impulsive and na├»ve. I was sure Eden did not have a serious problem. He had a knock. He was tired.’

A few eyebrows were raised. Was that smart to publically accuse the club`s most expensive player of malingering? Hazard never scored another goal under Mourinho. Dr. Carneiro was demoted. She resigned and launched a sexual discrimination suit against Chelsea, claiming that Mourinho called her the ‘daughter of a whore’.

Given the power differential between the two parties, it was an unsightly squabble – as though Richard Branson had scheduled a press conference to castigate a drowsy parking attendant.

FA chairman Greg Dyke said Chelsea’s manager had ‘made a mistake’ and should apologise. Mourinho disagreed.

From this low point, the 2015-2016 season continued downhill.

After getting crushed 3-0 by Manchester City, Mourinho claimed the result was ‘fake’. After losing 3-1 at Everton in September, he stated that ‘the game was completely under control’ even though they were losing 2-0 within 25 minutes.

In early October, Mourinho was given a £50,000 FA fine for saying that referees were afraid to award Chelsea penalties. A few weeks later he was given a one-match stadium ban and a £40,000 fine for swearing at a referee.

Normally reliable players like Diego Costa, Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Matic and John Terry, all had sub-par seasons. By December 5, 2015 Chelsea had won only 26% of its games.

After a 2-1 defeat by Leicester City, Mourinho said that he felt ‘betrayed’ by his players. Again, he could locate no flaw in his own game tactics. “Sometimes I find myself thinking last season I did an amazing job,” mused Mourinho, “brought players to a level not their level.”

On December 17, 2016, with Chelsea one point above relegation, Mourinho was fired.

Sports heroes with mystique are vulnerable to catastrophic and irreversible implosions.

Mike Tyson, ‘the baddest man on the planet` was 37-0 when he lost to Buster Douglas in 1990. After that loss, he won only 68% of his remaining fights.

Tiger Woods was the world`s best golfer in 2009 when he was revealed to be a sexual deviant. Since then, he has not won a single major tournament.

Over the last half decade Mourinho`s MER is better than Mark Hughes (-18), but worse than Alan Pardew (-12), Sam Allardyce (+1), Arsene Wenger (+6) and Tony Pulis (+9).

Has Mourinho learned anything from last season`s epic failure? Can he recover? Will the players be inspired if this insecure, self-aggrandising little man flatters them shamelessly while they are washing their testicles?

Manchester United fans are about to find out.

Writer – director Guy Bennett authored the best-selling book, Guy`s Guide to the Flipside and has twice been named British Columbia`s best weekly newspaper columnist for his work in The Westender.