Far from being a failure, Jose Mourinho should be remembered for the stability and silverware that he delivered at Old Trafford before his ultimate dismissal

One of the most celebrated and glossy footballing marriages of all time, between Manchester United and José Mourinho, has come to an end.

A divorce has been announced, somewhat inevitably, after some tough months together. But José didn’t do a bad job, and his time at the club was not a failure.

Mourinho was appointed on the 27th of May 2016, fulfilling his destiny. For some time, the Portuguese manager had been hailed as the heir of Sir Alex Ferguson, despite his longstanding past with Chelsea. 

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He was destined to be the man to take United back to where they belonged, after the struggles under David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal. The aims were clear: regular Champions League football, silverware where possible in the first season; battle for the Premier League from then onwards.

Looking at the team Mourinho inherited back in 2016, United really needed a spark to reignite any sort of fire. José immediately made his magic work, winning the Community Shield in August against Leicester City, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic netting the winning goal. Silverware, immediately.

The presence of Mourinho – combined with United’s spending power – attracted big stars that summer: Zlatan, but also Paul Pogba, who then fell out with the Portuguese in more recent times.

That season the Red Devils also won the League Cup and the Europa League, a competition they had never won before and that meant a lot for United at the time, after the traumatic seasons following the end of the Ferguson era. It also meant a quick return to Champions League football the following season. All in all, three trophies and the much needed European spot: a solid first year in charge.

Under Mourinho, the Champions League returned to be a regular customer at Old Trafford, with the Portuguese managing the Red Devils to a positive second place in the Premier League table in 2017/18, behind the legendary Manchester City side that broke all records, but ahead of Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham, Antonio Conte’s Chelsea and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

There was no silverware in his second season in charge, for a change, but United were in a position to grow going into his third season.

Then came the lack of summer transfer business in 2018, the problems with the club management and with some of the star players, showing how Mourinho’s man management has let him down once again after the problems at Real Madrid and Chelsea. José’s personality isn’t an easy one to deal with. He expected more from his players, and got little.

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It is fair to say that not many other managers could have gotten more out of the footballers, at least in the first two seasons in charge. It can’t be just Mourinho’s fault if Alexis Sanchez or Pogba underperform, and if the centre backs are still Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, who have proven over the years to be not quite good enough for the level expected at United.

Of course, considering he could have been the new Sir Alex Ferguson, this premature departure looks like a failure. Certainly, his time at Manchester United was not a success. But Mourinho won three trophies, piled together 84 wins in 144 games in charge, came second last year and more importantly, got United back into regular Champions League football, a fundamental prerequisite for any top club.


The Special One’s time at the club had to come to an end, having lost the dressing room and being at war with the club’s bosses, but Mourinho’s spell at United shouldn’t be labelled as a failure.

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