Jose Mourinho was unveiled as Manchester United’s new manager on Tuesday, having succeeded Louis van Gaal following the Dutchman’s sacking in May.
The former Chelsea manager started his new role this week, preparing his players for preseason and a tour of China, but has already caused a stir with his first news conference. How did he perform in front of the world’s media?
Journalists are often made to wait by managers at news conferences, but Mourinho did not just match his scheduled start time — he arrived and began speaking a few minutes earlier. It gave the impression of a man who meant business and who could not wait to get going.
His demeanour was relaxed but it took less than 10 minutes for him to show fighting spirit, throwing a jab at some managers who have not won the title in the past 10 years — which Arsene Wenger might have taken note of. And he was certainly well prepared, as he showed later.
There was no formality and no smart suit; instead he had the look of a man who had been hard at work on the training pitch, getting his hands dirty. Mourinho was dressed in an all-black Manchester United training top and trousers, with white trainers. It gave the appearance of a man at ease with his surroundings, accentuated further by his turned-up collar.
WHAT HE SAID
There were powerful and aggressive messages about recognising that United are the biggest club in the UK and that the standards are high, which he respects and wants to reach. Regarding transfer business, he revealed he wants a fourth transfer target to be sealed with three key players sorted out already (though Henrikh Mkhitaryan is yet to be formally announced.) He stressed a preference for specialists rather than multi-functional players.
Regarding managerial rivalries, he insisted he would not focus on one man and cleverly avoided a direct question about new Man City manager Pep Guardiola.
He was also careful when discussing influential, historically-important figures, who are in and around the club and could present issues for him. He spoke of how Sir Alex Ferguson was welcome at the training ground but that it was not his fault that Ryan Giggs had left because he wanted to be United manager. There was some tougher love for Wayne Rooney though, who was told that Mourinho does not see him in the midfield role he has started getting accustomed to.
He did not list the “49 players” that he had brought through the youth ranks during his various jobs, but clearly bristled at the question when he brought out his prepared statement.
HOW HE HANDLED THE MEDIA
There was a mixture of sympathy and steel. One inquisitor had his question about previous years’ struggles for United greeted with a series of understanding nods of the head. Another, however, asked about hunger and proving a point, which Mourinho appeared to misunderstand and reacted by making the journalist repeat the question and fixed him with a trademark glare.
Mourinho was also happy to joke around when it was appropriate, asking the press officer if they could confirm that “the third player” (Mkhitaryan) had signed for the club yet.
“This is not a dream job. This is reality.” — Those were words of a man who feels he belongs in the role of United manager.
DIFFERENCES WITH VAN GAAL/MOYES
While Van Gaal was cautious — saying that he did not want players to be intuitive, could not give predictions, and that the club had to prove themselves — there was none of that from Mourinho.
The new United manager knows that this is a club who should be in the Champions League and that finishing fourth is not a good enough target. He even said that he would not hide behind “philosophy”, which was a Van Gaal buzzword in the early stages of the Dutchman’s tenure.
On this day in 2013, David Moyes had the air of a man who had just landed his dream job and was happy to be there, savouring a once-in-a-lifetime chance. That was not the case with the former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager though. This was not a dream job for Mourinho, he pointed out. It was a reality. And that showed early on in his handling of the occasion.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
This was an assured display but the one time Mourinho looked close to cracking under the scrutiny was when he consulted his prepared notes and insisted he had promoted 49 youth academy players, offering to name them, when asked about his youth record.
It was not quite as emotional as Rafa Benitez’s meltdown when he read a speech of “facts” about Sir Alex Ferguson, but it was a warning sign that Mourinho remains an emotional character, affected by perceived injustice and criticism, and is not afraid to fight back.
VERDICT OUT OF 10
9/10 — This was a typically confident performance by a media-savvy man who used the occasion to send out the messages he wanted and to fire early shots to some of his rivals. Many United fans will be excited about what is to come, while Mourinho’s detractors will know that they will feel the full force of him if they cross him.