Manchester United hired Jose Mourinho as its third manager in three years on Friday, entrusting the highly successful Portuguese coach with the job of restoring the status of England’s most prestigious club.
In a long-expected move, Mourinho signed a three-year deal with an option to stay at the club until at least 2020. British media reported Mourinho will earn an annual salary of 12 million pounds ($17.5 million).
“To become Manchester United manager is a special honour in the game,” said Mourinho, who showed the contract he signed with the club in a post on his new Instagram account. “It is a club known and admired throughout the world. There is a mystique and a romance about it which no other club can match.”
The 53-year-old Mourinho, who has been out of work since leaving Chelsea in December, replaces Louis van Gaal after the Dutchman was fired on Monday, two years into his three-year deal.
Mourinho will look to succeed where David Moyes and Van Gaal failed, in what is proving to be a challenging post-Alex Ferguson era at United since 2013.
Twice a Champions League winner, with FC Porto and Inter Milan, Mourinho has won the Premier League title three times across two spells with Chelsea, as well as domestic league titles with Porto in Portugal, Inter in Italy and Real Madrid in Spain. He is as close it gets in soccer to being a guaranteed trophy winner, especially with the funding United is expected to provide Mourinho in the transfer market.
“Jose is quite simply the best manager in the game today,” United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward said. “He has won trophies and inspired players in countries across Europe and, of course, he knows the Premier League very well, having won three titles here.
“His track record of success is ideal to take the club forward.”
That is what United a record 20-time English champion and three-time European champion craves. Since Ferguson’s retirement, the team has finished seventh, fourth and fifth in the Premier League and won’t even be in the Champions League next season, the biggest factor behind the decision to terminate Van Gaal’s contract early.
“If you want to win, you bring Mourinho,” said Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who played under Mourinho at Inter and is being linked with a move to United.
There was no immediate news on who will be among Mourinho’s backroom staff. Ryan Giggs, a United great as a player, was Van Gaal’s assistant but Mourinho is expected to bring in his long-time No. 2, Rui Faria, as his right-hand man.
Mourinho’s appointment likely will not be universally welcomed by United fans. United has a long-held tradition of giving youngsters and academy graduates a chance, but Mourinho has established a reputation of only looking at the here and now. A dynasty builder he is not, with his tenures at clubs usually unravelling in its third season as it did at Chelsea last season and in Madrid.
His soccer philosophy win at all costs, no matter the style may also be at odds with United’s preference for free-flowing, attacking play. Immediate success would change everything, though, and some of Mourinho’s teams have been richly entertaining for periods of seasons.
Away from the field, Mourinho can be a spiky character and his confrontational and abrasive style with soccer authorities, media and even his own players has courted controversy at times. He is currently entangled in a legal case with former Chelsea team doctor Eva Carneiro, whom Mourinho undermined by accusing her of being “naive” for treating an injured player on the field during a Premier League game.
Carneiro is suing Mourinho individually while pursuing a constructive dismissal case against Chelsea that is set to be heard by a public tribunal in June.
“Mourinho is a really good coach, but that’s as far as I would go really,” United great Bobby Charlton, who is also a director and ambassador at the club, said in 2012.
United backed Van Gaal with more than $350 million in the last two offseasons money that was largely wasted by the Dutchman. Mourinho should get similar financial support to make additions to a squad that has some obvious deficiencies.
United needs a world-class striker to back up the raw talent of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, as well as more creativity in attacking midfield. Mourinho also needs to decide what to do with Wayne Rooney. The team’s captain was once its stand-out striker but appears to have been reinvented as a deep-lying midfielder.
Mourinho’s arrival also puts the spotlight on Manchester next season. Across town, Pep Guardiola will start a three-year contract at Manchester City, ensuring a renewal of a coaching rivalry that started in Spain from 2010-12 when Mourinho was at Real Madrid and Guardiola at Barcelona.
Mourinho first came to global prominence in 2004 when, as Porto coach, he charged down the touchline at Old Trafford in celebration of a winning goal by his team against United in a Champions League match.
Twelve years later, he returns to the iconic stadium as United’s manager.