If there was ever any doubt as to what kind of manager (or person) José Mourinho is, consider this: minutes into his debut press conference as manager of Manchester United, one of the most coveted (and scrutinized) jobs in football, Mou took a moment to reignite his long-standing beef with Arsène Wenger.
”There are some managers … the last time they won a title was 10 years ago. Some of them, the last time they won a title was never. The last time I won a title was one year ago [Chelsea, 2014-15], not 10 years ago or 15 years ago, so if I have a lot to prove, imagine the others. [...] I could approach this job in a defensive point of view by saying ‘the last three years the best we did was fourth and an FA Cup’. I could go into that side but I can’t.”
And this was just the warm-up.
His sharpest words were reserved to the man he succeeded, Louis van Gaal. The now-former manager at United spent much of his tenure talking about instilling a philosophy in his squad, of approaching the game in a certain way being as important as results (if not more so). Mourinho made it clear he could give a rat’s ass about philosophies.
”I was never very good playing with the words or hiding behind words and hiding behind philosophies. I never tried to be good at that. I was always much more aggressive in my approach with the risks that can bring.”
So what is Mourinho’s approach?
”I prefer to be more aggressive and say we want to win. What is playing well? It is scoring more goals than the opponents, conceding less, making your fans proud because you give everything and you win. It is everything at the same time. It is an aggressive approach by myself. I want everything. Of course we are not going to get everything but we want to.”
Some more highlights from the press conference:
On Ryan Giggs:
”It’s not my responsibility that Ryan is not in the club. The job Ryan wanted was the Manchester United manager. That’s not my fault – the owners and Mr Woodward wanted me. [...] If I am here and he wants to come back, I will never stop him. If one day the club wants him to be manager it will be the consequence of his achievements as a manager.
On his rivals in the Premier League:
”With all the respect to the other clubs in the country, especially one that was my house for seven years where I shared incredible moments, I have to say now I am the manager of the biggest club in the UK. I don’t have to look at the others as much. I have the same respect for every club, every manager.”
On where Wayne Rooney can and should play:
”Maybe he is not a striker, not a Number 9 anymore. But with me he will never be a Number 6, playing 50m from goal. Yes, his passing is amazing but mine is also amazing without pressure. Many players have a great pass, but to put the ball in the net is the most difficult. He will be a Number 9, a Number 10, a Number 9.5 but never a Number 6 or a Number 8.”
On advice offered by Sir Alex Ferguson:
”Bring the umbrella. Yesterday it was raining at the training ground – good advice. The second was for me to bring my typical bottle of wine because there will be many more opportunities to drink it together. We will have lots of time to meet each other. He will always be welcome to the training ground obviously.”
On getting United back into the Champions League:
”I feel a bit frustrated I’m not playing Champions League. I don’t hide that I chase Sir Alex’s record in the CL. Hopefully it’s only one season I’m – we – are not there. [Ed. note— Freudian slip?] The club is much more important than myself – Man United is a Champions League club and in July 2017 instead of waiting for the Europa League, we have to make sure this club is where it has to be. That is obviously in the Champions League.
One thing is clear— anyone who thought Mourinho would tone it down at United, who thought he was humbled by the collapse at Chelsea last season, was sorely mistaken. The chip on his shoulder has now become the second highest peak in the country. Arguably his greatest rival in European football, Pep Guardiola, is now in charge of the other Manchester club. The first clash of the with Chelsea will be boiling over with tension. Liverpool are now being led by Jürgen Klopp, against whom Mourinho is surely nursing a grudge. And, of course, there’s Wenger. It’s always a little personal with Mourinho, but now he’s done hiding behind a thin veneer of professional comity.
This isn’t just about revenge on his rivals, although that’s certainly on the menu. And this isn’t even just about winning, although Mou made it very clear he won’t accept anything but. This is about asserting dominance. This is Cersei Lannister blowing up the Great Sept of Baelor just to prove who’s really in charge around here. José Mourinho doesn’t just want to win the Premier League— he wants to bend it to his will. To sit upon a throne of melted-down boots and microphones, and gaze upon the smoking ruins of Anfield and the Etihad and Stamford Bridge. He wants The Usurper, Claudio Ranieri, brought before him in chains. All shall love Mourinho, and despair.
Mourinho is out to reclaim what’s his with fire and blood, and Manchester United is the great dragon he plans to ride into war.