Jose Mourinho broke down in tears. Manchester United had appointed their next manager, and it was not him. Sir Alex Ferguson had anointed David Moyes instead of him. A serial winner was overlooked for a man without major silverware. The Portuguese was distraught. Or at least he was in a partisan account by Diego Torres, the El Pais journalist. It is not a version of events that either Mourinho or anyone in his camp has ever admitted.
Fast forward the best part of four years and as two of Ferguson’s heirs prepare to meet, the Special One has reasons to be grateful to the Chosen One. Moyes lowered expectations for Mourinho. He has helped afford him time. He took away the supposition that success was simple for United and anything else automatically qualified as failure. He created the climate where finishing seventh, as Mourinho could do, is not a sackable offence. Certainly not if United win the Europa League and end the season with two trophies and a return to the Champions League. But not if their interminable continental campaign ends in disappointment either.
Mourinho will be at Old Trafford next season. That, in part, is Moyes’ legacy. In one respect, he was a transformative United manager; just not like Ferguson or Sir Matt Busby. United were realigned. Moyes’ solitary season was not so much the anomaly as the unwanted model. The pattern of expensive underachievement, with each manager spending more than the last, is now familiar. With every campaign, United’s first genuine post-Ferguson title challenge is postponed for a further 12 months. A cycle Moyes began continues.
United averaged 86 points in the three years before his appointment and 66 in the three after. Mourinho is on course to amass 71 now. That might be presented as progress, even though Ferguson topped that total in 22 successive seasons. Now the correlation between the biggest budget and a lesser league position has been established.
That also owes something to Louis van Gaal. But once again, Mourinho is a beneficiary of Moyes’ difficulties. The Scot is alone among recent United managers in that he could not publicly blame his predecessors for the problems he inherited. Ferguson bequeathed a flawed squad, but his title wins had camouflaged their defects and legends tend to be immune from criticism. Moyes could not explain his own travails but finding fault with a man who won the Premier League 13 times. In contrast, Mourinho can make veiled – and often accurate – references to Van Gaal’s regime to underline the scale of his task.
Mourinho’s United, like Moyes’ team, do not play at great pace. Neither, of course, did Van Gaal’s, while Ferguson’s sides slowed down in his final few years. Yet United have felt out of step with footballing fashion since the Scot’s appointment. Their style of play has been too functional; they are rarely as fast or fluent as some of their peers. They have become a club where, at any given point, there is the sense that the manager is struggling to get the best from several of his players, often those recruited by a former manager. They have seemed in perpetual transition, forever looking for evidence, real or imagined, of advancement. They have turned Old Trafford from a fortress into a place others can storm. Moyes was undermined by some damning home defeats, Mourinho by a strange sequence of draws. Since Ferguson’s retirement, United have triumphed in too few major matches: Moyes won just one in the league against top-seven opponents, an unwanted statistic Mourinho now shares.
Read the full article on eurosport.co.uk: Mourinho a happy beneficiary of Moyes' regrettable legacy at United