When Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho came to the Premier League, he announced himself as the ‘Special One.’ Was this a bold claim, an insight into the future, or an early example of the manager’s huge ego? We’re looking at the legendary Premier League manager and asking if he’ll be remembered as a hero or a villain for his accomplishments, both good and bad.
Making his name
Before Mourinho came to the Premier League, he did something remarkable and won the Champions League with FC Porto. Considering how many talented teams play in that European competition, it is unlikely a team like Porto could win it.
That’s not to say Porto are not good, it’s just that the strength of the other teams in the tournament is on another level. Mourinho managed to take his young and unfancied squad all the way to the final, before securing victory before the eyes of the world.
The manger created an ‘us-vs-them’ mentality among his players, making them play with a togetherness that made them better as a collective. They didn’t have the best players, but they had the best spirit and even secured a famous victory over Manchester United on their way to becoming champions.
The ‘Special’ era
Mourinho was hot property, and Chelsea had just been taken over by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich who was looking to make major investments. The new owner had already spent lots of money on players, but now he needed someone to bring them all together and get results on the field.
Mourinho swaggered into his first press conference as Chelsea manager with the confidence of someone who had just achieved greatness. The season after leading Porto to Champions League glory Mourinho was now testing himself against the very best.
He would be up against legendary Premier League managers Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. Mourinho wasn’t worried and declared himself the ‘Special One’ at his first conference, Chelsea fans were about to go on a wild ride.
The 2004-05 season was Mourinho’s first in England, and he was determined to make it a good one. Halfway through the season he won his first trophy as Chelsea manager, beating Liverpool in the League Cup final after extra time. This would be the first of many for Jose, and at the end of the season, Chelsea were crowned Premier League champions for the first time in the competition’s history.
Chelsea finished the season with 95 points, which was a record until the 2017-18 season. Another record Mourinho’s Chelsea team broke was the fewest goals conceded in a Premier League season, with just 15. That defensive record still stands and is proof of the togetherness he was able to bring to the locker room.
It was Chelsea against the world, and the players were willing to give their lives both for each other and their manager. If Mourinho kept Chelsea playing like this no team in England could stop them from being champions for a long time.
Divide and conquer
Mourinho was enjoying life at Chelsea, and in his second season with the London team, he won the Premier League again. Winning championships had become almost too easy for Mourinho, and after he was awarded his medal, he threw it into the crowd. The 2005-06 season was another triumph and proof that Mourinho and Chelsea were the perfect fit.
Not only was Mourinho making his players fight for each other, the manager was getting involved with arguments among the other managers. Mourinho is not afraid to defend his players, and soon this began to annoy one Premier League manager.
Arsene Wenger preferred his players to play soccer in the ‘right’ way, which meant passing the ball a lot on the ground and scoring lots of goals. Mourinho preferred to win at all costs, and that meant defending like their lives depended on it. The two managers would end up clashing over and over again.
The beginning of the end
The 2006-07 season was the first time Mourinho didn’t win the Premier League, and it was largely due to issues behind the scenes. Chelsea’s owner wanted to run the club his way, and he began bringing people into the club against the manager’s wishes. Striker Andriy Shevchenko was brought in, but Mourinho kept playing the player he wanted, Didier Drogba.
Then a director of football was brought in, who signs players instead of the manager. This did not please Mourinho, and he was happy to criticize how things were going behind the scenes. It was not a happy camp, and at the beginning of the 2007-08 season he left the club, breaking Chelsea fan’s hearts.
Mourinho was still in high demand, and he took his service to Italy, managing the legendary Inter Milan in 2008. This was the perfect environment for Mourinho as once again it was his team vs. the world. At that time, Inter Milan were underperforming, and Mourinho was able to turn his stars into world beaters.
He managed to win the Champions League with Inter, in similar circumstance to his Porto success. After Milan, he went to Spain to manage one of the biggest teams in the world, Real Madrid. Mourinho won the Spanish League, proving that he was still one of the best coaches in the world.
In soccer, there is a belief that you should ever return to a place of former glory as you can ruin the happy memories people have of you. Mourinho was done with Madrid and Chelsea were in desperate need of a new manager. He was welcomed back to Chelsea with open arms by the fans, and was given assurances by the owner that history wouldn’t repeat itself.
Once again Mourinho was back to his old tricks, but soccer had moved on since his last time in London. Mourinho was never afraid to call out his stars in public if he wanted them to perform better and for some Chelsea players, he was doing this too often. Despite issues in the locker room, Mourinho won the Premier League in his second season back in England.
Things ended in tears once again for Chelsea and Mourinho as the club were in danger of getting relegated in the manager’s third season. Mourinho was fired, and his reputation was damaged.
Three season syndrome
Everywhere that Mourinho has managed he has had a three-season expiration date. Three seasons was all it took for him to lose the dressing room as the demands he made of his players took their toll. Eventually, he would lose the dressing room, but not before enjoying success with whatever team he took charge of.
His last Premier League job
Although his reputation took a hit after Chelsea fired him, one of the biggest clubs in the world came along and gave him a job. Manchester United had been struggling for success after their legendary manager Alex Ferguson retired and believed they were getting a winner in Mourinho.
Despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new players Mourinho’s old divide and conquer tactics were no longer working. He never had the locker room’s full support and Manchester United failed to live up to their potential. Mourinho took charge in 2016, but by 2018 he had been fired by the Manchester club.
The manager had upset the team’s star player, Paul Pogba, and the French midfielder’s teammates stopped playing for their manager. Every time his team lost Mourinho would pick on a few select players, which some analysts believed was nothing more than bullying. Jose was miserable every time he spoke to the press, and finally, after many poor performances, he was fired.
Mourinho has won pretty much everything there is in soccer, and those who followed his successful teams view him as a hero. Things always seem to go wrong after a while though and his attitude has many players and fans believing he is one of soccer’s biggest villains. He did a pretty poor job at Manchester United and Mourinho’s miserable couple of years will possibly be remembered more than his success at Chelsea.