How can 'The Special One' Mourinho restore his reputation?
There was a time when it seemed as if Jose Mourinho could walk on water.
After leading Porto to Champions League success, he joined the Roman Abramovich revolution at Chelsea and created a team that formed the bedrock for a decade of success.
Having announced himself as ‘The Special One’ upon his arrival in West London, his status did not wane when he left Chelsea. He went on to win the Champions League again with Inter Milan and then more titles at Real Madrid.
But things began to unravel towards the end of his second spell at Chelsea, where, having won the Premier League once more, his charm was replaced by more fractious relationships.
Where once he used to gloat at other managers and their shortcomings, since joining Manchester United, his demeanour has been one of frustration and conflict.
One man who works closely with Mourinho is Daily Mirror Manchester Football Correspondent, David McDonnell.
“When Sir Alex Ferguson was manager of Manchester United, he ran a very tight shop and not a lot of information leaked out. He sought to keep anything negative in-house, which is why it was always such a big story if something did get out.
“The club was successful and Sir Alex would always show solidarity, unity and protect his players publicly.
“That has changed dramatically under José Mourinho, who doesn’t appear to care about leaks at the club, such as the episode where he and Paul Pogba argued at training about an Instagram post the midfielder had published.
“Mourinho was a young man when he took over at Chelsea for the first time, and a breath of fresh air with his charisma and unshakeable self-belief. It was impossible not to be impressed with him, because of his total conviction in his ability as a manager.
“But the game moves on and I'm not sure he's moved with it. A younger breed of coaches like Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino play a different brand of football, a passing game on the front foot while Mourinho is pragmatic in his approach.
“Despite spending a lot of money, United are no closer to winning the Premier League or Champions League than they were when he took over, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to have expected a more competitive team by now, given he has spent around £400million.”
Mourinho has been reported to have clashed with his board over a failure to sign defenders during the summer, which set the tone for Mourinho’s pre-season and subsequent demeanour.
McDonnell added: “He probably knows that he cannot compete with City, Liverpool and possibly even Chelsea, because of the players and investment that has been made at those clubs, and that has affected his mood, although he has spent big himself, just not on players effective enough to compete with the likes of City, Liverpool and Chelsea.
“He wasn't given everything he wanted in the summer, and that set the tone for the brooding discontent we have seen from Mourinho, which has created such a toxic atmosphere at United.
“I was in America in the summer when United played Liverpool. There was no sit-down interview with Mourinho for the media pack who followed the team over the five-game tour, no chance to discuss his plans for the season.
“I don’t even cover Liverpool, but they extended an invitation to me for a sit-down with Klopp, who was engaging, funny and open about his views.
“I just don’t think Mourinho enjoys doing media but, ultimately, you reap what you sow. He engenders a divisive approach with the media and within his squad, by calling out players and criticising them in public, which in turn causes a negative atmosphere.”
While putting on a united front is one area where Mourinho could improve, so is regular access ahead of games.
At Calacus, we advise our clients to engage with media rather than baton the hatches, a fundamental tenet of sports communications.
There will always be issues of sensitivity or confidentiality that cannot be discussed in detail, but working with the media rather than against them develops trust that produces a stronger working relationship.
McDonnell explained: “The print media now get eight minutes with Mourinho every week….four minutes general media and then four which is embargoed for newspapers and so we aren’t able to go deep into topics we may want to discuss.
“With some clubs, including Manchester City, setting aside at least half-an-hour for the Friday Press briefing, and Liverpool offering newspaper reporters a separate private briefing with Jurgen Klopp, United's eight minutes all-in is a joke.
“It’s a fight to get questions in and it’s impossible to build up a rapport with him. We know he thinks Manchester Press are not supportive, which is inaccurate and unfair. We only write as we find, and if United are under-performing and under-achieving, like they have done under Mourinho last season and so far this season, we have to reflect that.
“It’s far easier to report on a club that's doing well and where manager and players are engaging as a result of that. When he told us he thought we would be sad that he had won a few weeks ago, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
“He also started a press conference half-an-hour early recently, trying to catch us out, but all it did was cause greater friction between Mourinho and the Press pack, and create negative headlines.
“When you look at Manchester City or Liverpool, though, they have a strong communications team who see the value in building a rapport with journalists.
“We can discuss stories with them, get briefings that help us to do our job and satisfy the insatiable interest fans have in news from the clubs.
“At United, there isn't dialogue with the media in the same way, and briefings are rare. They need to be more open as a club - you need to have dialogue with the press.
“We don’t expect to be waited on hand and foot, but if the club opened its doors a little more and gave better access, the coverage improves, because they can shape the narrative rather than just react to it.”
The situation is about to change, with former Nike executive Charlie Brooks joining as head of communications.
McDonnell concluded: “I know Charlie well, and I hope his appointment will bring about a change.
“There needs to be a greater understanding of how the media works and better co-operation – let us in through the front door and work with us, rather than leave us isolated and digging around for stories around the back door.
“It will help the club, it will help the mood and hopefully put a smile on Mourinho’s face!”