The Shadow of Mourinho Lurks Over Van Gaal and Benitez
After his sacking by Chelsea, Jose Mourinho has been linked with two of the biggest jobs in the world of football. Both Manchester United and Real Madrid crave the signature of the Portuguese. United have reservations about Mourinho and rightly so, whilst Madrid are keen but have one too many obstacles to overcome before re-installing him as their manager once again.
Those with long memories will remember that Mourinho’s Madrid beat the best Barcelona side in history to the La Liga title with 100 points, producing some electric football along the way. But towards the end of his managerial cycle, Mourinho looked like a man desperate to motivate himself, players and the fans. Only succeeded in driving a wedge between two sides of the dressing room. Despite this, Mourinho and his agent Jorge Mendes retain a good relationship with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez. As such he looks destined to manage Real again at some point.
Madrid, like Manchester United, are fumbling their way through a season that they aren’t exactly happy with. Whilst Perez appointed Benitez with good will, it has become painfully obvious that the former Liverpool manager’s shelf life wont extend past the end of May. Benitez has already felt the wrath of Real fans who have waved the traditional white hankies in his direction after the humiliating loss in el Clasico last month. Real had to turn up their club anthem to the loudest setting in order to drown out their boos… it didn’t work. Van Gaal has also received the same treatment from United fans in the form of extended booing at home games.
Desperate cries of ‘attack, attack, attack’ from fans have signified that they have grown tired with the Dutchman’s ‘philosophy’. Defensive solidity has returned to the level upheld during the Sir Alex Ferguson era. But crucially though supporters of the Manchester club have been brought up on exciting attacking football. Van Gaal was recently praised by United’s board following their impressive run of form. Since then they have dropped out of the Champions League and suffered humiliating losses to Bournemouth and Norwich, slipping to fifth in the league. His failure to change tactics and take advantage of what is perhaps the most open title race for a number of years has frustrated everyone connected with Manchester United.
Perhaps crucially for the plight of Van Gaal, there has been no support for him at board level this time round. Not even from an ‘off the record source’. Mourinho has flirted with Manchester United previously, and was touted to become the successor to Ferguson, only to announce his return to Chelsea. Nevertheless, Mourinho still remains firmly interested in the role and could provide a quick, yet expensive, appointment for United should they rid themselves of Van Gaal. However, they must be wary of Mourinho who has had scrapes with the FA too many times this year. Although Ferguson had some near misses with the FA, he upheld the clubs traditions and never received a stadium ban, unlike Mourinho.
With a sequence of 3 wins in 13 matches, Van Gaal must be looking over his shoulder. Benitez must feel as though the proverbial sack is halfway over his head. The discontent among fans, despite half of the attendance at the Santiago Bernabeu being made up of tourists, is plain for all to see. Even more obvious is the lack of support for Benitez in the influential Spanish media, in particular the Madrid based newspapers who totally ignored the 10-2 victory over Rayo Vallecano to focus on Barcelona’s World Club Cup triumph over Argentinian champions River Plate. If the Madrid press don’t want you, nobody does.
One thing that is for certain though, is that the emerging availability of Mourinho has certainly shortened the life lines that both managers currently have. Despite Mourinho’s recent results with Chelsea he remains one of most successful managers in world football and a desired asset for any club giant as they seek success.