Mesut Ozil would be Jose Mourinho’s ultimate project at Manchester United

Jose Mourinho has worked with Mesut Ozil before and they could be reunited in Manchester

Given the way he has taunted and tormented his great adversary over the years, it’s not impossible to envisage that Jose Mourinho spends much of his time thinking up ways to get under the skin of Arsene Wenger. Whether it’s labelling him a “specialist in failure,” or reminding the Frenchman that he “hasn’t won a championship in 14 years,” the Manchester United manager has turned a personal rivalry into a sport.

Now, however, he might have found a way to humiliate Wenger on an altogether different level. Reports over the weekend suggest Mourinho wants Mesut Ozil to run down his Arsenal contract, allowing him to join Man Utd on a free next summer. It would provide a further indictment of Wenger, further embarrassing the Frenchman at the hands of his great rival.

For Mourinho, Ozil would be his ultimate project. Certain things are expected of those who play under the Portuguese and the German playmaker doesn’t quite satisfy that criteria, at least on the basis of what he has shown for the Gunners over the past four years. In fact, Ozil pretty much goes against every grain of Mourinho’s identity as a coach.

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Mourinho with Ozil in Madrid

At Arsenal, the 28-year-old is maligned for his refusal to track back, and at times his lack of effort. He has become the embodiment of Wenger’s feckless Arsenal, capable of so much better, but unwilling or unable to show it with any degree of consistency. That is why Ozil isn’t the most natural of fits for Mourinho’s United side.

It’s worth recalling, however, how integral Ozil was for Mourinho at Real Madrid. In Spain, the German was considered one of the finest playmakers in the game, driving the capital club to the league championship in 2012, ahead of Pep Guardiola’s zeitgeist-setting Barcelona outfit. It’s what prompted Arsenal to part with a club-record fee for Ozil’s services in the summer of 2013. He was, in every sense, a marquee signing. Never before had there been such excitement over a new arrival at the club.

So there is a precedent for Mourinho to follow in the use of Ozil as a force in the attacking third. There can be no doubting the German’s creativity, and so if Mourinho can find a way to harness that, it could be a watershed moment in the development of his Man Utd side. It could take them on to another level.

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It would also be the ultimate humiliation for Wenger, the definitive illustration of the difference between the Frenchman and Mourinho. For so long, the Arsenal boss has failed to change and alter his players. While he once transformed Thierry Henry from a winger into one of the best forwards the game has ever seen, he now appears to have lost that tactical foresight.

Mourinho, on the other hand, only seems to be gaining it. Look at the way he has turned Juan Mata into a true Mourinho player, with the Spaniard now just as effective tracking back as he is pressing forward. Ozil could present a similar sort of case study, a litmus test for Mourinho’s capabilities, not just as a coach, but as a personality.

That personality is the hallmark of Mourinho, making him one of the defining footballing figures of the past decade or so. Not so long ago, there were hints that his powers were on the wane. His final season at Chelsea marked something of a nadir in his illustrious career. But at Man Utd, he is coupling his own personal comeback with that of a super club. Now, Ozil could join him in that. Next season could be comeback season for the German.

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