by Callum Hamilton
I’m a Manchester United fan, and I did most of my pretending to grow up in the 90s. The ’99 team is of course my favourite. It’s fabled, rightly, for it’s gung-ho attacking spirit, quantity of home-grown players, and refusal to respect any opposition, no matter how illustrious. So why, then, did I also have a fondness for José Mourinho?
At Chelsea, he led a despicable team of unlikeable 2-0 peddlers that had been assembled through vast and ill-gotten wealth to win trophies for an unworthy club which I have never liked. And yet, as Ferguson approaches retirement, I am moved to consider him as the likely replacement, and suggest that it might, in one way, recapture those golden years. It all goes back to Roy Keane, you see.
There’s been something missing at United since Keane’s departure. Our midfield has never been the same, but this has been as much down to a change in tactics. But Keane was something other than a brilliant passer and inspirational captain who worked like a trojan. He had a blackness to him — a dark side more vast than that of the moon, a horrible streak that would act as a double-edged sword, United’s most fearsome weapon and greatest liability. It was dangerous, it was reckless, and it was wonderfully exciting. Without such a terrible underlying aura, United are not only a weaker team, but less fun to support. Ferguson is hardly a saint, but Mourinho is capable of recreating the slight whiff of the nether about us.
Somehow, he was never a true hate figure at United. His refusal to get along with other managers was amusing, and he always held a respect for us, whilst subjecting the likes of Wenger to much-deserved broadsides. He was sinister, a master of the dark arts, yet much of it was ultimately harmless — the UEFA ban antics spring to mind. He had flair and flamboyance, and a dark streak, which is all to be respected and enjoyed in the sterile, dull world of football.
The criticism of Mourinho about his negativity and reliance on wealth is not overwhelmingly substantiated. He’s a winner, and he knows how to set up a team to stop another, and so will use that tactic if he’s faced with a superior opponent. He’s been hamstrung slightly in his whole career — Porto were playing in a small league. He had Abramovich to deal with at Chelsea. Inter brought more politics and less money. Real had the money, but not all of it within his control, and yet more politics, a team that was steeped in a culture detrimental to effectively playing against top-class opposition, and some unfeasibly good opposition in Barcelona.
But who cares. It all comes down to this: he’s a sinister, handsome fucker, and he’s good at his job. And what more can you ask for than that?