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Mourinho for Villa


Who would you prefer as Villa manager?  

130 members have voted

  1. 1. Who would you prefer as Villa manager?

    • Jose 'The Special One' Mourinho
    • Martin O'Neill

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For all the Jose lovers out there have a butchers at this. Simon Barnes is one of the best sports writers around and The Guardians online stuff is good too.

Mourinho October 2005

Come with me to any lower-division match. You’ll probably get a half-decent football game. You’re a journalist, you write down significant information in your notebook. The home team make lots of chances but convert only one, then get caught on the break. The match ends, but your intrepid information-gathering does not.

You go to a room, generally bare and unloved, and wait. Eventually – always long enough to keep you in your place – the managers come in, one by one. “How did it go, Ron?” “Well, we made lots of chances. But in this league, you get punished if you don’t take them and that’s what happened today.”

And you and your half-dozen colleagues write all this down as if the words were coming from a burning bush. “Were the substitutions tactical, Ron?” “Fresh legs up front.”

Then one of the long, ugly pauses that characterise encounters of this kind, before someone asks: “Any knocks, Ron?”

The experience of watching a football match is not valid until the manager has spoken. Many, if not most newspapers will be deeply unhappy about a match report unless there is a “quote” from the manager. “We’ve got to work hard in training all week. There are no easy solutions in football.” And we write this all down as if it were Analects of Confucius. Is it not surprising that managers get their heads turned?

José Mourinho represents the ultimate triumph of this: The Cult of the Manager. He has done as much as is humanly possible to render the action on the pitch irrelevant. With Chelsea, the story was always the manager. Players, what do they matter? Like Alfred Hitchcock’s actors, they are cattle.

Mourinho was football’s star. His entire career was a sweet revenge on the gods that made him unable to play the game. But he was never interested in football for itself; rather, it was football as a vector for power that enthralled him. That was his strength and ultimately his downfall.

Because the truth of the matter is that, ultimately, football is a game about spontaneity; about fragments of individual brilliance allied to a corporate resolve. If you reduce football to a series of set-plays, you reduce the capacity for surprise and, therefore, the potential for winning.

But Mourinho hated spontaneity. He sought control. He wanted people who only ever crossed on the pedestrian crossing, not realising, or rather, not understanding that a city without jaywalkers is a city without artists.

He didn’t want artists. He didn’t trust them. He liked ordinary talents developed to extraordinary lengths: Terry, Lampard, Makelele, Drogba. These were people he could control, these were players who would not get between the manager and his public.

One club, one star. Le club, c’est moi. Football’s traditional belief is that the team are an extension of the manager’s nature. Why, you may ask, were Chelsea not flamboyant, feisty, cocky, maverick, paradoxical, intermittently brilliant? Because Mourinho is primarily interested in power. The maverick side of his nature is merely the way he set about claiming power, for it is power, not perversity, that defines him.

As a result, the team were in subjection to the manager. This wasn’t a team who cut loose, ever; this wasn’t a team you watched for the sake of this player or that player. You wouldn’t catch Mourinho signing Cristiano Ronaldo or Cesc Fàbregas, talents that need a certain amount of slack in the rope.

Rather, Mourinho put his faith in method and control. Chelsea were effective enough but never reached beyond the brilliantly ordinary. The truly exceptional was always beyond their reach, perhaps beyond Mourinho’s understanding.

How else to explain his failures with Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack? To fail with one might be regarded as a misfortune; to fail with two looks like a personality disorder. A manager who takes on two of the finest players in Europe and gets scarcely anything from either – indeed, seems to delight in their misfortunes – must ask questions not about the players but about himself.

These two players were stars and, as such, they didn’t fit into Mourinho’s plans. They were a threat to him. It was important for him that they failed, and they did. This is heresy: it should be the belief of every coach that anyone of sufficient talent can be accommodated.

Mourinho preferred other methods. They work, too. They worked for Mourinho at FC Porto, where he won the European Cup, and they worked well enough in England to bring two league titles, even if a second European Cup was always beyond him with Chelsea.

But these methods have their drawbacks. The first is that if you rule the exceptional out of your game, you are going to have problems when you encounter the exceptional among your opponents. You have eliminated the element of individual inspiration. In fact, the only place in which individual inspiration was allowed to flourish with Chelsea was with the goalkeeper. Petr Cech’s head injury was the single reason Chelsea failed to win the league title last season.

The other drawback is that your team are going to be less fun. Less fun to watch, less fun to play for. And you can argue all you like that a win is a win and that it doesn’t matter whether you went the pretty way or the ugly way, the fact is that Mourinho found himself in trouble at Chelsea because of a disagreement on the subject of aesthetics. It is true, yet it is not true, that Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, parted company with Mourinho because he was unable and unwilling to deliver football like Barcelona. That was the proximate cause, of course, an ever-growing dissatisfaction with the fact that Chelsea’s highest ambition was to achieve a sustained and brilliant mediocrity.

But the ultimate cause was different. If it hadn’t been aesthetics, it would have been something else. Mourinho established a one-star club, with one man attracting all the attention, making all the stories, setting the agenda, one man as the centre of power, one man as the moving spirit, one man eclipsing all others. It really should have occurred to him that a man who had spent 500 million quid to establish the club as a publicity vehicle for himself may get a little bit irritated by that.

Because the truth is that Mourinho’s power was only ever an illusion. He drew attention to himself, he had the nation’s football press delighting in every pose, every absurdity, every contradiction, but he was never truly in charge of Chelsea. Such power as he had was loaned, not achieved or given.

Mourinho reminds me of the critic in Anthony Powell, whose goal “was to establish finally that the Critic, not the Author, was paramount”. The cult of the manager is designed to promote the idea that the manager, not the player, is paramount and Mourinho’s is the ultimate expression of this cult. And that’s why Mourinho had to go – because the cult is based on a false premise. In the end, the players are the stars.


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I like Mourinho. I think he's a a marvelously intelligent and talented manager. He's had wonderful success in the past, and he will achieve great things in the future. I would have loved to have him at Villa, and I think he would've done a good job here.

However, I happen to believe Martin O'Neill is perfect for our club, and I wouldn't replace him with anyone. Based on his achievements with Villa alone, I'd choose him over anyone else, let alone what he's done at other clubs. He's as intelligent as Mourinho, and his personality just fits us perfectly. He's patient, thorough and inspirational - you can tell he's got a plan, and that plan will bring success to Villa Park. And in the process, he's building a foundation for the club, that we will benefit from long after his reign here is over.

So my vote goes to Martin.

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MON is massively overrated by the media for what he has actually done.

Mourinho has actually done what MON gets similar hype for, when MON has not been even close to!

That's an absurdly simplistic and quite frankly inaccurate view, Jez.

You're turning into Malcolm.

I don't think so. Mourinho won the CL with Porto, then the prem with Chelsea in his first season.. of course he spent a fortune, but turning them into a team in his first season was an awesome achievement.

That wasn't the point I was making, Jose Mourinho is a fantastic manager.

Whats the point you are making then? Mine is what Risso has pointed out, Mourinho has won everything all the big ones, MON has not but the way the media goes on you would have thought he has won it all!

This is not saying i dont want MON or think he is crap, before anyone gets all upset and kicks off at me!

My point is that that is an absurdly simplistic and quite frankly inaccurate view. It is simplistic because it compares diffenret types of things. It's like saying that that Cheddar isn't a very good blue cheese. In the end, both managers have made huge successes of every job they have been at. They have had different jobs, but both men have taken every club they have been at to the next level. Has O'Neill won the Premier League? No, but if he was managing Chelsea then he might have done. He may still. As a Villa fan, you ought to appreciate that the best managers aren't automatically the one the manage the best sides. Winning the league with Chelski is a slighly easier task than winning it with Leicester City - so to compare the two as if it's a level playing field is ridiculous.

It's innaccurate because the media like both managers, primarily because they are both palpably talented and succesful but also because they carry a little more character and interest than most PL bosses. If you can find me an article that says that O'Neill is a better manager than Mourinho then show it to me. The truth is, there isn't one. The media as a whole likes the pair of them, they do not try to 'hype up' one to be better than the other.

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