IAN LADYMAN: Mourinho is now more Wenger than Sir Alex Ferguson

IAN LADYMAN: Jose Mourinho was once a powerful force but he is now more Arsene Wenger than Sir Alex Ferguson… The Roma boss still understands the game but there is a missing link in how he can get the best out of players

  • Jose Mourinho was back in action at the weekend with his new club Roma
  • Return comes after turbulent spells at Tottenham and Manchester United
  • He remains as sharp as ever but he struggles to understand how players now tick
  • Similar signs appeared with Arsene Wenger at Arsenal before his departure 

It is a myth that all football managers get better as they grow older.

Arsene Wenger stayed five years too long at Arsenal. Sam Allardyce proved a point post-England at Crystal Palace but probably should have ended things there.

Fabio Capello with England? We know how that played out. And it will be interesting to see whether Carlo Ancelotti can reignite the flame at Real Madrid. The great Italian’s year and a half at Everton was underwhelming by the end. 

Jose Mourinho has returned to Italy following rocky spells at Tottenham and Manchester Utd

The Portuguese boss is now in charge of Roma as he looks to restore the club’s former glories

So age and experience does not always generate wisdom in the way it did for someone like Sir Alex Ferguson. Which brings us to another former Manchester United manager, Jose Mourinho.

Now 58, Mourinho began the 21st season of his coaching career in charge of Roma against Fiorentina in Serie A on Sunday night.

The Portuguese has always liked a big city posting. London (three times), Milan, Madrid, Rome. But whether he remains a coach of enduring quality is less certain. His record since winning the Premier League during his second spell at Chelsea in 2015 is poor by his standards and his demeanour and behaviour at his last two clubs — Tottenham and United — told of a man incapable of bringing a group together as he once did.

At his media introduction in Rome last week, Mourinho was charming and waspish.

‘When I was in England, I told my staff, I really miss the press conferences in Italy, because in England they only want to talk about controversy,’ he said. 

Mourinho often got into furious spats with Arsene Wenger (left) in the Premier League but his career is now taking a feel more familiar to the former Arsenal’s boss demise

Mourinho has not shown the longevity that enabled Sir Alex Ferguson (above) to keep winning

‘But now that I’m in Italy, I don’t want to talk about tactics, because you’re too good at the analysis!’

Classic Mourinho. He was the same on day one at Tottenham in the winter of 2019. All smiles, glad-handing London journalists like old friends. I wrote at the time that it wouldn’t last and it didn’t. It won’t last in Rome either. At Tottenham he upset an extraordinary number of people. At United, his manner was such that Ferguson — once such an advocate and friend — was left utterly bemused by it.

Had results been better, he might have been allowed to proceed unchecked. Success gives a coach power. Ultimately, both clubs simply grew tired of him — on the pitch and off.

Mourinho was once such a powerful force. Tactically smart and undeniably charismatic, players once fed off his energy and confidence.

As a columnist for The Times and Sun and a pundit for talkSPORT during the European Championship this summer, Mourinho was peerless. The day before England’s opening game against Croatia, he delivered on radio a tactical assessment and breakdown of Gareth Southgate’s team that was not only compelling but also proved to be unerringly accurate. 


Mourinho’s charisma was once a weapon in the mid-2000s in his first Chelsea spell

Doubtless, Mourinho still knows the game. He knows players and how they play. What is less certain is whether he still understands how they work and what makes them tick. This may now be the missing link in Mourinho’s chain.

As we said at the outset, it happens. Management is a desperately hard path to walk. It takes its toll. It changes people and not always for the better. And Mourinho started early. He was working for Sir Bobby Robson at Sporting Lisbon 29 years ago.

He would be lost without football, that’s for sure. He has never looked comfortable out of work. He clearly needs the game to which he has given so much. But how much longer it will need him is less clear.

Roma finished seventh in Serie A last season, 29 points behind champions Inter. Mourinho’s appointment was certainly glamorous but it’s not hard to see where this leads once the bonhomie fades.

The tactical mind is still with Mourinho though as he expertly broke down England’s tactical set-up during the European Championship this summer

Is Burnley’s number up? 

Burnley’s team at Liverpool wore numbers 1-11 and all played in the appropriate positions. It was lovely to see but it could also be argued it was entirely appropriate for a club who feel a little stuck in time.

Sean Dyche remains a manager of great quality and potential but his team — 17th in the Premier League last season — are the oldest in the top flight and the club have not signed anybody of note so far this summer.

Off the field, new owners have made a raft of changes and as a result Burnley are currently without a chief executive, academy head, commercial manager, communications chief and technical director.

We presume there is some kind of grand plan to move a good club forwards. We wait to discover exactly what it is.

Burnley seem to be behind the times of most Premier League rivals despite the managerial expertise of Sean Dyche

Karl’s voice of reason 

Karl Darlow is a fine goalkeeper and a grounded, intelligent bloke.

On Saturday in The Times Darlow explained in disturbing detail his recent encounter with Covid that left him in hospital for a week.

‘This interview is important,’ he said. ‘I hope people will read it and take Covid seriously.’

The majority of folk in this country are taking Covid seriously. Vaccine uptake is high. But among Premier League footballers, it is not.

Individual choice should be respected, of course, but until this peculiar attitude changes it is hard to see how this and managers’ calls for games to be called off when Covid strikes marry up.

Karl Darlow has urged people to take Covid seriously having had to spend a week in hospital after contracting the disease

Great goal, Danny, but not rocket science

Danny Ings was asked on Match of the Day what the set-piece plan was behind his fabulous goal for Aston Villa against Newcastle. The striker said that he could not give away club secrets.

So I will hazard a guess.

Matty Cash hurled a throw-in towards Tyrone Mings, the central defender headed it on and Ings smashed it into the net.

A superb goal, but the rocket scientists remain busy elsewhere.

Danny Ings netted an excellent bicycle kick on his Villa Park debut for Aston Villa

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