José Mourinho is one of the most successful managers in the history of modern football. There can be no argument about that. However, during his time at Manchester United and now Tottenham there seems to be a growing consensus that he is no longer a top manager.
But is there any evidence to support that? Or is it just a case that Mourinho’s personality and playing style are clouding people’s judgement on his managerial ability?
2002 to 2010
Porto: Jan 2002 – May 2004
League Positions: (1st/1st/2nd)
Titles: League (2003, 2004), Portuguese Cup (2003), Europa League (2003), Champions League (2004)
Five trophies in two seasons speaks for itself really. Even then, there were signs of his arrogant personality and win at all costs style of football. After taking charge of Porto mid-season he confidently proclaimed that he would win the league the following season (which he did) and although I knew little of Mourinho at the time I still remember how annoyed I was at the cynicism of his Porto team in the Europa League victory against Celtic.
Chelsea: June 2004 – Sep 2007
League Positions (1st, 1st, 2nd)
Titles: League (2005, 2006), FA Cup (2007), League Cup (2005, 2007)
Mourinho probably joined Chelsea at the right time as they really should have won the league a season earlier but there can be little doubt that he moulded a fantastic side at Chelsea. Defensively rock solid, this team could also take teams apart as they demonstrated in a 4-2 demolition of Barcelona. The signature game of his 1st spell at Chelsea came in clinching their second title against Manchester United when they demolished their nearest rivals 3-0.
I think that annoyingly good Chelsea side from the Man United game would still challenge for the title today!
Chelsea Team; Cech, Gallas, Carvalho, Terry, Ferreria, Makelele, Essien, Lampard, J.Cole, Robben, Drogba
Inter Milan: June 2008 – May 2010
League Positions: (1st/1st)
Titles: League (2009, 2010), Italian Cup (2010), Champions League (2010)
Mourinho’s time at Inter Milan was an undeniable success and he perhaps found his spiritual home in Italy where a higher value is placed on the tactical side of the game than in other leagues. Not too much to add on this although I would recommend reading Wesley Sneijder’s account of Mourinho’s management at the club. It was a surprise to me.
That brings an end to the first half of Mourinho’s managerial career. Across seven full seasons he finished with six league titles, two Champions League titles, five domestic cups and a Europa League win. Pretty decent. Here is where some people say that it all went wrong.
Real Madrid: May 2010 – June 2013
League Positions: 2nd/1st/2nd
Titles: League (2012) Spanish Cup (2011)
Mourinho went to Real Madrid at a time when Barcelona were the dominant force in world football, winning six titles in eight years and four Champions Leagues in ten years across the period spanning before, during and after Mourinho’s reign. He wasn’t able to build the dominant team in Spain but winning the title in his second season with 100 points was a fantastic achievement.
By the time he left a year later most people in the club were glad to be rid of him following clashes with a number of high profile players but this was more to do with his personality than his results which were probably about par for the course for the second best team in the country at the time.
Chelsea: June 2013 to December 2015
League Positions: (3rd, 1st)
Titles: Premier League (2015), League Cup (2015)
When Mourinho returned to Chelsea they had not won the league since 2010 but it did not take him long to build a title winning side as his team won a double in his second season including a savvy League Cup victory over Spurs.
This was another job which ended on a sour note as Mourinho again clashed with people inside and outside of the club in his final season but winning one of only two Chelsea titles in the decade was still a notable achievement.
Man Utd: May 2016 to December 2018
League Positions: (6th, 2nd)
Titles: Europa League (2017), League Cup (2017)
When Mourinho came to Man United they had one FA Cup to show for the post Ferguson era with league finishes of 7th, 4th and 5th. In Mourinho’s first season he won two trophies which was an undoubted success and he followed that up with a second-place finish, still the club’s highest finish post Ferguson across what is now seven seasons.
The departure that followed seems like another classic Mourinho fallout with a club but delve a little deeper and it may not be the case. Mourinho’s annoyance seemed to stem from a belief that he was not backed in the transfer window as well as a frustration at the lack of a winning mentality within his squad. Whilst his response may have been petulant, it is difficult to argue that he was right on both accounts.
And so, in the second half of Mourinho’s career he has collected two league titles, three domestic cups and a Europa League across seven full seasons. A step down from the previous period but based on this success, it is difficult to argue against the idea that the negativity around Mourinho stems from a dislike of the man and the style of football that he employs rather than the results he achieves.
As the obvious example, Solskjaer is being widely praised for the work he has carried out at Man United but finished the current season a place lower, with fifteen points less, fewer goals scored and more goals conceded than in Mourinho’s second season. He also lost three semi-finals.
The accusation that Mourinho leaves clubs in a mess is also something of a myth. In the years that followed Mourinho’s time at Real Madrid they won the Champions League four times in five years, at Chelsea they won the league title and an FA Cup in the following seasons. This is not to give Mourinho credit for those successes, rather to dismiss the idea that either club was left with the need for a painful rebuild after his departure.
Whilst he may no longer be the best in the world, listing two or three managers that may be better than him is not evidence to suggest that he is not a top manager. There is no guarantee that he will win trophies at Tottenham and people are entitled to their opinions on his personality and style of football. When you look at the facts however there is little doubt that Tottenham’s chances of success are greatly increased with this serial winner at the helm.
Here from The Guardian is what I found to be the most amusing of character assassinations where Mourinho making a tactical substitution at 2-0 down after thirty minutes and going on to win a game is highlighted as a negative move. The change is then described as a ‘punishment beating’ and ‘the same strategy Prince Edward had employed with the rebel Simon de Montfort in 1265: after killing his enemy he had De Montfort’s severed head mounted on a stick and paraded around the kingdom as a warning to others’. At least it is colourful, I guess!