After Jose Mourinho’s sacking, we take a look back at his first press conference as Manchester United manager.
In July 2016 the Portuguese was unveiled as United’s new manager and spoke to the press for the first time in the role.
While the mood was very different back then, there were already early signs of the stories which would develop to define Mourinho’s time in charge at Old Trafford…
Mourinho on the scale of the job
This is not a dream job. This is reality. I am Manchester United manager. The reality is that this is a job that everyone wants and I have it. I know the responsibility and the expectation. At the same time I know the legacy. I know what’s behind me. I know what the history is and what the fans expect from me. The challenge doesn’t make me nervous because my history was always to live with big clubs’ expectations.
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In his very first answer, Mourinho talked up the prestige the position of manager of Manchester United holds and his credentials to fill it. The weight of history certainly hung heavily over his reign, with critics routinely pointing to the style of his football contrasting with the attacking approach of the past, while his later attempts to play down United’s “football heritage” following a Champions League exit did not go down well.
On his ambitions for the team
It would be easy, honest and pragmatic for me to focus on the last three years, and the fact we didn’t qualify for the Champions League, and to say, ‘Let’s work, let’s try to be back in the top four, let’s try to do well in the Europa League’, but I am not good at that, and I don’t want to be good. I prefer to be more aggressive and to be more aggressive is to say ‘we want to win’.
I could anticipate that one of you will come later with a question about style of play, and what is before is the result of the style of play. I can anticipate that by saying that you can win a short competition and you can win a couple of matches without playing well. But you cannot win a competition without playing well.
What is playing well? It is scoring more goals than the opponent, it is to concede less than the opponent, it is to make your fans proud because you gave everything and you win. I want everything. I want to win matches, play well, play young players, score goals, not concede goals.
Mourinho’s insistence that United should not be looking for mere improvement on the mediocre-to-disappointing results of the past three seasons but going all out to win silverware was a mentality welcomed by the club’s supporters. He hinted at a pragmatic approach but three trophies in his first campaign silenced any complaints about style. It was only when the big wins dried up in a trophyless second season that the pressure began to mount.
On big targets for big reputations
There are some managers that the last time they won a title was 10 years ago. Some of them have never won a title. For me it was one year ago. If I have a lot to prove, imagine the others.
For so many years, for the fans success was just routine, but I want to forget the last three years. I don’t want the players to start the season by thinking ‘we have to do better’. What is to do better? To do better is to finish fourth. To finish fourth is not the aim.
Mourinho was never shy of talking up his previous achievements during his tenure and he began as he meant to go on with an early reference to his recent Premier League triumph with Chelsea. But while finishing fourth was not the aim on day one – and wasn’t achieved in the first season, with Europa League victory securing Champions League football despite a sixth-place finish – it became a priority in 2017/18, while he leaves the club sitting outside of the Champions League qualifying spots.
On transfer targets
We made a nucleus of four positions as priority, to give a certain balance to the squad, and a certain push in terms of quality and the qualities I want, especially the ones with more vision.
We decided four targets and from them we have three. Until we don’t have the fourth we are working hard on that, with Mr Woodward and the owners. When we have the fourth, we will breathe, and the market will be open, because there is no way we will get the fourth on August 31.
United’s success – or lack of it – in the transfer market would be a running theme throughout Mourinho’s reign. He got his four targets in the summer of 2016 – Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba – but was frustrated by the club’s failure to land other big names down the line, with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward’s role in those dealings in the spotlight.
The fact Mourinho sold Mkhitaryan, while Bailly and Pogba fell out of favour summed up the problems, while huge funds spent on fees and wages for the likes of Victor Lindelof and Alexis Sanchez weren’t rewarded with performances to match.
On youth development
Do you know how many players I have brought through from the academy to the first team? Forty-nine. If anyone is interested I can give you the names.
Some of these 49 players are big names. Some of them are Champions League winners. Some of them are at the Euros, for national teams. Forty-nine is a lot. One lie repeated many times, sometimes it looks like it is true, but it is still a lie.
Mourinho was on the offensive in his first press conference, eager to quash concerns about his reputation for favouring tried and tested players over young academy products. However, despite his insistence he was the right man to nurture United’s emerging talents, there were only a handful of youngsters who made a mark during his tenure.
Scott McTominay was a favourite, handed a Manager’s Player of the Year prize at the 2017/18 end of season awards – the first time the award had ever been made in United’s history. Marcus Rashford was often on the fringes and publicly criticised after a poor performance at Brighton, although Mourinho defended the amount of minutes he had given to the England international, while Andreas Pereira wasn’t considered ready to make the step up.
Maybe he is not a striker anymore. Maybe he is not a No 9 anymore but with me he will never be a No 6. He will never be 50 metres from the goal. You can tell me his pass is amazing, and yes it is, but my pass is also amazing without pressure.
For me, he will be a No 9 or a No 10, or a number nine-and-a-half, but not a No 6, not even a No 8.
In the summer of 2016, the future of Wayne Rooney was a major talking point at Manchester United and perhaps one of the successes of Mourinho’s time in charge was the way he managed the captain’s departure to Everton.
Man Utd vs B’mouth
December 30, 2018, 4:15pm
During 2016/17, Rooney played a reduced role and was denied the central midfield berth he was pushing for but still figured in key moments and became United’s all-time top scorer in the process before signing off by lifting the Europa League trophy.