When José Mourinho recently declared his ambition to remain in the Old Trafford hot-seat for fifteen years, eyebrows shot up everywhere. This is not a man known for putting down roots. His managerial tenures rarely last more than three seasons, leaving many unconvinced he possesses the personality and temperament to lead a club for the long haul. This time, though, he seems to have his mind set on a far lengthier stay.
To Mourinho, there has always been something special about Manchester United. Both club and manager are throwbacks. Unlike most other European heavyweights, United still prefers a strong manager to run the rule over all footballing matters. There is no Director of Football or transfer committee at Carrington, but rather a single voice that sets the club’s on-pitch direction.
Mourinho craves that power — and the stability that comes with it. Few positions combine the historic grandeur and hands-off ownership of Manchester United. Here finally lies his chance to implement a long-term project without pressure or backbiting from the boardroom or locker-room.
If player power runs amok elsewhere, it gets little quarter in Manchester. Throughout Sir Alex Ferguson’s 26-year reign, the club often stood apart for steadfastly supporting the manager any time a player challenged his authority. Mourinho’s career, on the other hand, has been plagued with directors unwilling to afford him the same courtesy.
Recognizing how good he now has it, the manager appears to be making a genuine effort to build a solid foundation at United. It’s still early days, but this seems a kinder, gentler Mourinho. He has dialed back the antagonism of rival managers — going so far as to compliment his old punching bags, Arsène Wenger and Claudio Ranieri. The man is no saint, as evidenced by his recent jibes at Antonio Conte’s hairline, but he has nevertheless taken a more respectful stance than in the past.
He’s also chipping away at his reputation for prickly boardroom relations. In this somewhat quiet summer window for the club, Mourinho has voiced little discontent, choosing to praise the efforts of Ed Woodward instead. The manager’s wishlist initially numbered four, but that now looks unlikely. Rather than complaints, Mourinho offered understanding and gratitude for the arrivals of Victor Lindelöf, Romelu Lukaku, and Nemanja Matić.
Speaking of the transfer market, Mourinho’s dealings also belie the oft-cited canard that he won’t give younger players a chance. Since joining the club in May 2016, more than half of his signings (Eric Bailly, Paul Pogba, Lukaku, and Lindelöf) have been under the age of 25. Sure, there have been veteran additions as well, but every successful squad needs a blend of old heads and young legs.
Most importantly, these transfer decisions are solely Mourinho’s. Unlike at Chelsea or Real Madrid, no incomings or outgoings are sanctioned without the manager’s approval. José Mourinho finally has his dream job — and it doesn’t look like he’s going to give it up any time soon.