The ‘Special One’ was a nickname Chelsea fans used to call Jose Mourinho during his first stint as Chelsea manager from 2004 to 2007 and has stuck with him.
But it was not Chelsea fans who baptised the Portuguese manager “The Special One” – rather, it was Mourinho himself. In the wake of his accomplishment of back to back European titles with Porto, having taken the UEFA Cup in 2003 and superseding that achievement with a Champions League victory the following year, Mourinho felt that it was only fitting to refer to himself in such a way.
“Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m [a] European champion and I think I’m a special one.”
Twelve years on from Mourinho’s statement, after a poor start to the 2016/2017 season as Manchester United manager and after his sacking from Chelsea the previous Christmas (leaving them in 16th position), he does not seem so special.
Manchester United might well be in the right half of the table in comparison to Chelsea’s start last year, but United fans will probably be reluctant to endow Mourinho with the title.
Having topped the Premier League at the second time of asking during his second stint as Chelsea manager, the owner, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, decided to get rid of Mourinho. The Russian is rarely impressed when managers fail to perform and has sifted through ten different managers in his reign at Chelsea, having given Mourinho the opportunity to prove himself twice.
This, however, seems to be the trajectory for modern day football managers. There is a constant revolving door where managers are not given a chance to succeed.
We probably will not ever see another Sir Alex Ferguson, who guided the Red Devils to a mind-boggling 13 titles in 27 years at Old Trafford. Nor will anyone else last as long as Arsene Wenger who is 20 years into his tenure as boss of Arsenal. Perhaps it is because owners have realised that managers are just not that special.
In an article by the Financial Times, the newspaper outlined that it was not the manager that was the limiting factor in a team’s success but the wage rates of their players. Teams such as Manchester City and Chelsea have emerged from modest beginnings to become two of the most dominant forces in English football in recent years as a result of billionaire takeovers.
Minnows Leicester City managed to buck the trend last season, but miracles do not often happen and with Leicester way down the table, it seems that the Premier League will return to the status quo.
Despite the fact that managers’ disposability has undermined the role of managers these days, Mourinho is keen to take on the impossible and make his mark at Manchester United.
Since Ferguson guided Manchester United to the summit of the league in 2013 for the last time, subsequent replacements David Moyes and Louis van Gaal had miserable attempts at preserving Manchester United’s knack for silverware.
The red side of Manchester are rapidly being displaced by their blue counterparts as kings of the city. Hence, it was integral that United sought a manager with the credentials to undo the shortcomings of the two predecessors.
Prior to Mourinho’s unceremonious 4-0 league defeat last month at the hands of his former club, Chelsea, he admitted that if things do not change during his three year contract at Manchester United, then his pet name could be gone.
“But if, at the end of the three years, I don’t win a single piece of silverware for them, they will say ‘great guy, good coach, we like him, but we feel nothing special about him’.
As a result of Manchester United’s lacklustre display, Mourinho found himself ridiculed by Chelsea fans to the chorus of “you’re not special anymore”, the very people who used to attribute him with quasi-messianic qualities.
It seems that respect will have to be earned once more for Mourinho.
Image courtesy of Tsutomu Takasu