For a man with a reputation for being an arch pragmatist, Jose Mourinho has quite the imagination on the quiet. His disdain for football’s dreamers is well documented, yet the clarity of his vision for where he wants his sides to get to is often as clear-sighted as it is prescient. The paradox is he is seen as the quintessential short-term manager, yet history dictates this does him a disservice.
Of course, to take umbrage is only necessary if such a label is deemed disparaging. Such is their even-handed disposition behind the facade of car park TV fury, Arsenal fans might not go so far as to kill for a hit of short-termism, but they would almost certainly put down their quinoa to applaud it.
That Mourinho has won the title in his second season at each of his major clubs—Porto, Chelsea (twice), Inter Milan and Real Madrid—is not some spurious quirk of fate. In Foucault’s Pendulum, Umberto Eco wrote, “Everything is repeated, in a circle. History is a master because it teaches us that it doesn’t exist. It’s the permutations that matter.”
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Bookmakers usually work on the assumption history tends to repeat itself. After Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Leicester City made it three wins from as many matches for Manchester United, with 10 goals scored and none conceded, some are offering just 2-1 on Mourinho continuing his remarkable record of delivering a title after 12 months on the job.
Just three games into a six-horse race, those odds are skinnier than a toothpick with an eating disorder, even withstanding Arsenal’s players having to collectively withdraw from international duty to partake in a mandatory visit to a glue factory.
Mourinho’s second-season record is one of those facts so well documented over the years it has long-since lost its capacity to draw wonder. Met with a shrug despite clearly being extraordinary, it’s the football equivalent of being informed Michael Jackson had a monkey called Bubbles and slept in an oxygen tank.
To be fair, Mourinho looks as though he might have spent the summer in an oxygen tank. Physically, he appears rejuvenated. There’s a bit of the Richard Gere about him again, where last year slumming it in his tracksuit he more resembled a man on gear. In his own words, he’s on fire, and so…