Football: Return of the special one

Jose Mourinho signs a Manchester United football shirt held out by a fan, while being driven from his home in London yesterday. "To become Manchester United manager is a special honour in the game," he said.
Jose Mourinho signs a Manchester United football shirt held out by a fan, while being driven from his home in London yesterday. "To become Manchester United manager is a special honour in the game," he said.PHOTO: REUTERS

'Mystique' of Red Devils a key factor in why he accepted the task of revitalising the club

LONDON • Manchester United yesterday appointed Jose Mourinho as their third new manager in less than three years in a bid to reinstate themselves as a title-winning force in England and Europe.

After three days of talks, the Portuguese - dubbed the "Special One" agreed a three-year contract on a salary reportedly worth more than US$20 million (S$27.5 million) a year.

But the 53-year-old, who has 22 honours to his name, said it was the "mystique" of United that drew him to the challenge of reviving one the world's biggest football clubs.

The Red Devils need a lift out of the doldrums after David Moyes and Louis van Gaal failed to emulate the glory years under Alex Ferguson, who retired in 2013.

"To become Manchester United manager is a special honour in the game," Mourinho said in a club statement. "It is a club known and admired throughout the world. There is a mystique and a romance about it which no other club can match.

UNITED WE STAND

I have always felt an affinity with Old Trafford; it has hosted some important memories for me in my career and I have always enjoyed a rapport with the United fans.

JOSE MOURINHO, on his appointment as Manchester United manager

 

"I have always felt an affinity with Old Trafford; it has hosted some important memories for me in my career and I have always enjoyed a rapport with the United fans. I'm looking forward to being their manager and enjoying their magnificent support in the coming years."

He earlier told MUTV: "I feel great. Giant clubs must be for the best managers and I'm ready for it."

Mourinho seemed destined to manage United since his Porto side eliminated Ferguson's men en route to winning the 2004 Champions League.

He thought his time had come when Ferguson retired, but concerns over his volatile personality prompted United to turn to the more reserved Moyes instead.

But, with that move proving a disaster and van Gaal faring only slightly better, United's powerbrokers sacked the Dutchman on Monday and decided at last to take a chance on Mourinho.

"Jose is quite simply the best manager in the game today," said United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward. "He has won trophies and inspired players in countries across Europe and, of course, he knows the Premier League very well, having won three titles here."

The Red Devils' statement on Mourinho's appointment did not mention the future of Ryan Giggs.

The 42-year-old was van Gaal's deputy and had been seen as a potential successor to the Dutchman.

The Portuguese is expected to take his long-term backroom staff with him to Old Trafford.

Mourinho will hope to make significant improvements to an unbalanced and often lacklustre United squad before the new season begins in August.

Media reports said he will have a £200 million fund to bring in fresh faces, with Chelsea's Willian, former Paris Saint-Germain forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Everton defender John Stones reportedly on top of his wish list.

Mourinho said his aim of winning top trophies at Old Trafford was realistic and pledged he would give everything he had to achieve it.

"What the players need to listen (to) is: I want to win," he said. "I need the supporters and the players to feel I say that, but I think we can - really."

He added that he would "give what I have, and what I don't have - so I will give absolutely everything to try and go in the direction we all want".

Former United defender Rio Ferdinand said Mourinho needed to revive a winning mentality.

"This is Jose Mourinho's most exciting and most challenging job yet," the former England captain said.

"(After his dismissal from Chelsea earlier this season) this winner is now a wounded animal which makes him such a mouth-watering appointment. Mourinho's huge personality is made for this great club".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'Return of the special one'. Print Edition | Subscribe