The one and only is back!

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

LON­DON — There are fears Jose Mour­inho, Manchester United’s new man­ager, will change the way the team plays. Do not fret. He al­ready did that 10 years ago.

It was 2006, the sum­mer af­ter Mour­inho had won his sec­ond con­sec­u­tive ti­tle with Chelsea. For Manchester United, the Arse­nal era had passed and the fu­ture was all about match­ing the threat posed by Ro­man Abramovich’s money.

Yet it wasn’t just in­vest­ment that gave Chelsea an ad­van­tage. Their coach had a new way of work­ing, too. He was a fron­trun­ner. Where United un­der Sir Alex Fer­gu­son had al­ways fo­cused their ef­forts on fin­ish­ing strongly, Mour­inho liked to set the pace. And once he did that, he played a tac­ti­cal game, clos­ing the sea­son out.

Mour­inho’s teams do not park the bus, as lazy minds sug­gest, but they do know how to pro­tect a lead, and some­times over sev­eral months.

“Tra­di­tion­ally our prepa­ra­tion for a new sea­son had em­pha­sised the sec­ond half of the 38-game pro­gramme,” wrote Fer­gu­son in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy.

Now he was find­ing the old rules did not ap­ply. Once Chelsea got a sig­nif­i­cant buf­fer it did not mat­ter how United fin­ished. In 2004-05, Chelsea went top on Novem­ber 6 and did not re­lin­quish that lead. The fol­low­ing sea­son, they were even more com­mand­ing - a pro­ces­sion from first place that be­gan on Au­gust 24, three games in, af­ter a 4-0 win over West Bromwich Al­bion.

Fer­gu­son knew he had to change. “A les­son we took on board was that slow starts could no longer be tol­er­ated if we were to face down Chelsea,” he wrote.

The fol­low­ing year, a two-week spell in late Septem­ber was the only pe­riod Manchester United were not top of the league - to win their pre­vi­ous ti­tle, in 2002-03, United hit the front for the first time on April 12.

So Mour­inho has al­ready changed the ethos at Manchester United. That is what, at his best, he brings. A new broom.

Le­ices­ter and Clau­dio Ranieri are cred­ited with sound­ing the death knell for pure pos­ses­sion foot­ball - but watch Mour­inho’s In­ter Mi­lan team against Barcelona in 2010 for a mas­ter­class in how to op­er­ate with­out the ball.

Not that all of his strengths con­cern neg­a­tiv­ity. Many of the Premier League records set in his first sea­son in English foot­ball still stand, in­clud­ing most points (95), most wins (29), most away wins (15), fewest goals against (15) and fewest goals con­ceded away from home (none). And, if any­thing, his sec­ond sea­son was bet­ter than the first - it usu­ally is.

This is the man­ager who held such ap­peal for United they were will­ing to start pay­ing him months be­fore of­fer­ing the job - and to give him com­pen­sa­tion if they ul­ti­mately changed their minds.

There was a route that would have seen Louis van Gaal see out his fi­nal year, but it in­volved Manchester United se­cur­ing Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball, the bot­tom line for any coach at Old Traf­ford from this point.

De­spite pos­i­tive re­cent fi­nan­cial re­sults, Ed Wood­ward, the chief ex­ec­u­tive, be­lieves a point is be­ing reached at which sea­sons out­side Europe’s most pres­ti­gious com­pe­ti­tion will be­gin to harm the United brand. He has seen the ef­fect on clubs such as AC Mi­lan, and is con­cerned.

Mour­inho is viewed as the type of coach who will get Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball on lock­down. The fi­nal sea­son of his sec­ond spell at Chelsea is viewed as the ex­cep­tion, with a con­sis­tent level of suc­cess and high­end com­pe­ti­tion the rule, and United were aware that Van Gaal’s po­si­tion could be sig­nif­i­cantly weak­ened as he en­tered the fi­nal year of his ca­reer in man­age­ment.

Mour­inho, though equally dog­matic in ap­proach at times, ar­rives em­pow­ered at a club whose stan­dards need to be raised. He will also be viewed as a charis­matic man­ager, his in­di­vid­ual pull per­haps ca­pa­ble of over­com­ing the ab­sence of Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball this sea­son.

So they want him. And he wants them? Re­sound­ingly, yes.

Ever since that fa­mous sprint down the touch­line with Porto, Mour­inho has seen Old Traf­ford as his stage. There was talk of Paris Saint-ger­main and, no doubt, if an of­fer from United had not ma­te­ri­alised, the op­por­tu­nity to work again - and a tilt at the Cham­pi­ons League - may have ap­pealed.

Yet Mour­inho is scorn­ful of Europe’s lessthan-com­pet­i­tive leagues and PSG’S 31-point win­ning mar­gin this sea­son is per­haps the most ex­treme ex­am­ple of that.

“I think Eng­land is the coun­try mother of foot­ball,” he said, an­nounc­ing his re­turn to Stam­ford Bridge three years ago. “The com­pet­i­tive­ness is very, very high. I don’t en­joy too much win­ning 6-0. I don’t en­joy too much to play in a league where you know you are against an­other team and you know that this is about 90 points, 92 points, 96 points, 100 points, 100 goals, 110 goals, 120 goals. “If you make a lit­tle mis­take and you lose, you are in big trou­ble be­cause your di­rect op­po­nent won’t lose any matches. The num­ber of points Barcelona got last sea­son, to fin­ish sec­ond, would have won ev­ery league in the world. The same with Real Madrid this sea­son. It’s a two-horse race.” In France, you can halve that field, and Mour­inho knows it. The money would be good, but largely ir­rel­e­vant to a man of his means. Mour­inho has long been con­vinced the great­est chal­lenge is in English foot­ball. In 2014, he was hon­oured by the Foot­ball Writ­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion. Van Gaal, his men­tor, was among the speak­ers and talked at length on his spe­cial­ist sub­ject - the great­ness and wis­dom of Louis van Gaal - be­fore Mour­inho put many cyn­ics in the room to shame with a speech set­ting out his love for English foot­ball. “I feel I am more English than the English,” he said. “When I at­tack the divers, when I de­fend the cups, when I play my best team in all the cup com­pe­ti­tions be­cause I think it is im­por­tant - and when I say there are too many for­eign man­agers, and the jobs should go also to the best Bri­tish man­agers.” He would later ex­pand on that ad­dress. “English foot­ball pushes ev­ery­body to the max­i­mum of pos­si­bil­i­ties,” he said. “The ex­tra com­pe­ti­tion, 60 matches, 70 matches, three matches in a row, the Christ­mas pe­riod, the Easter pe­riod, the ac­cu­mu­la­tion, push­ing peo­ple to the limit. That’s fan­tas­tic. “I’m not say­ing it’s right. I just love it. Some­times you love things that aren’t right. Would I pre­fer to have a week’s hol­i­day at Christ­mas, like I did in Spain? New York two years ago, Brazil last year. No, I pre­fer to play. I was en­vi­ous at home watch­ing the Premier League in that time. To­tal envy. Is it right play­ing four con­sec­u­tive matches? Prob­a­bly not. But I love it.” One imag­ines, there­fore, that he will not be protest­ing about Europa League foot­ball and the sub­se­quent Thurs­day-sun­day tread­mill at United next sea­son; or maybe he will. That’s Mour­inho style, too, want­ing it all ways. The idea that he will not en­cour­age United’s youth tal­ent is non­sense to any­one who has fol­lowed the ca­reers of Kurt Zouma, Raphael Varane, the 22-year-old Petr Cech picked ahead of Carlo Cu­dicini and then the 22-year-old Thibaut Cour­tois picked ahead of Cech. He gave 18 play­ers their de­buts at Real Madrid and played Da­vide San­ton at 17 at In­ter. Mar­cus Rash­ford has been one of Manchester United’s best play­ers in re­cent months and good man­agers do not drop their best play­ers just for be­ing teenagers. Mour­inho is no ex­cep­tion. Ex­pect Rash­ford to fea­ture next sea­son, as he has in this cam­paign. Ti­mothy Fosu- Men­sah seems to have a lit­tle of Zouma about him, too. Ex­pect Ryan Giggs to still be around the place as well. He was known to have been un­happy with Van Gaal’s style - it is hard to be­lieve he did not have some sym­pa­thy with the crit­i­cism of for­mer team-mates - and it was thought he might leave if over­looked for the main job again. The sug­ges­tion is, how­ever, that he will choose to work with Mour­inho, and use the op­por­tu­nity to at least find out about a coach re­garded among Europe’s best. He may also rea­son that, if Mour­inho is suc­cess­ful, it will look equally im­pres­sive on his own c.v. - and he may then be bet­ter placed to suc­ceed him, if Mour­inho’s ten­ure con­forms to pre­vi­ous pat­terns. You never know, though: he might fall in love. He has waited a long time for this - and if any club has that power, it is Manchester United. — Daily Mail

Jose Mour­inho.

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