By Sulaiman Alao:
MOURINHO’S THIRD TERM EPL AGENDA
Expectations high as new Man Utd boss re-signs Pogba for world record transfer fee
JOSE Mourinho is back in England for the third time in his illustrious but highly controversial career and this term, he will be in the dug-out for Manchester United rather than Chelsea, a side he had previously managed twice at various times while recording more successes than failure. The Special One’s arrival at Old Trafford will open a new chapter in the life of the Portuguese coach as well as the Red Devils who are desperate to regain their lost glory in recent times. His appointment as Man Utd manager has and is still eliciting a lot of mixed reactions from United fans just as Chelsea fans are divided on whether to laugh or cry that their former manager who took the Blues to their unprecedented highest achievement so far has now pitched his tent with a bigger and rival club.
Mourinho is a special breed when it comes to club football management and wherever he goes to practice his trade, you can bet there will never be dull moments. Now, it is not only United and Chelsea fans that are in dilemma at this time but fans of other rival clubs like Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and possibly Tottenham Hotspur will also have their fair share of the worry. Some United players will be worried about keeping their place in the new squad while other in-coming managers like Pep Guardiola (Man City), Antonio Conte (Chelsea) know they will have their hands full competing with Mourinho in the EPL. One can also bet that verbal showdown will continue between Mourinho and Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger.
On the flip side however, Mourinho’s 3rd Term Agenda will also have its benefits and the first major beneficiary of all the intrigues that Mourinho is expected to throw up will of course be the ever volatile English sporting press whom we all know can never have enough of the Special One and will make the most of the happenings surrounding the coach on and off the field in their reports and coverage. Love or hate him, Mourinho is any journalist’s delight any day. The second and ultimate beneficiary will be the English Premier League itself which explains why it is the most popular and richest league in the world!
What will Mourinho be looking to achieve with United? Since the exit of long serving and highly successful manager Sir Alex Ferguson, the Red Devils’ fortunes quickly nosedived as successor David Moyes led the team to a woeful 7th place finish in the 2013/14 season. Luis Van Gaal was brought in to steady United’s sinking ship but the Dutchman could not salvage the situation at Old Trafford. Statistics showed that while Moyes spent a paltry £64.6million on two major signings of Marouane Fellaini (£27.5m), Juan Mata (£37.1m) while in charge, Van Gaal on his part spent a whooping £261.7million on 11 players made up of Angel di Maria (£60m), Luke Shaw (£30m), Ander Herrera (£29m), Marcos Rojo (£16m), Daley Blind (£14m), Radamel Falcao (£6m loan fee), Anthony Martial (£36m), Morgan Schneiderlin (£25m), Memphis Depay (£25m), Matteo Darmian (£14.4m), Bastian Schweinsteiger (£6.3m) with only an FA Cup trophy last season to show for it while failing to land a Champions League slot. Mourinho is therefore tasked to usher in a new era of success at United
With £200m made available for him to build a squad capable of challenging for the title this season, Mourinho went shopping early to land Zlatan Ibrahimovic (free transfer), Henrik Mkhitaryan (£26.3m) and Eric Bailly (£30m). On Tuesday, August 8, Mourinho completed his fourth and final signing as United paid a world record fee of £89m to re-sign Paul Pogba from Juventus. The 23-year old Frenchman broke previous transfer records of Cristiano Ronaldo (£80m) and Gareth Bale (£86m) to now become the most expensive player in the world. Pogba’s triumphant return to United spelt a transfer coup that greatly benefited the player and Juventus who paid a paltry sum of £800,000 to secure the player on loan about four years ago.
The Special One indeed has his work cut out and having secured all his transfer wishes, there will be no room for excuses. He has to use his magic wand to put Manchester United back on the right pedestal not only in the EPL but also in Europe – the two stages where the Red Devils have strangely become strangers. He has to restore United’s confidence and help them rediscover the fear factor that had served the Devils so well under Sir Ferguson. The Portuguese coach with his wealth of experience in the EPL and Europe coupled with his tactical savvy looks well qualified for the big job but the nagging question is if Mourinho, largely regarded as a nomadic coach, will be ready to go on a long haul with United. That decision is however, not entirely left with Mourinho as it remains to be seen if the club owners will be patient enough to weather the storm with the coach if things don’t go right at the initial stages. Remember, Chelsea booted out Mourinho midway into his second season despite winning the EPL title in the first season of his second spell at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho signed a four-year contract with United which includes the option to cut ties after three years. Coaches’ contracts are never cast in stone!
Last week, I was on the set of The Big League Soccer, a television football talk-show which is aired on Lagos Television every Saturday at 11:30 am, prior to the kick-off of the Community Shield where I was asked by the presenter, Tunde Koiki to predict the winner of the game between Leicester City and Manchester United. I opted for Leicester because of our own Ahmed Musa but United won 2-1. Mourinho has started on a winning note and expectations will be high amongst United fans. With Pogba’s addition and Mourinho’s pedigree, United indeed look good to challenge last season’s top runners Leicester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City for the title. And with the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool having also beefed up their squads, it is going to be a really exciting season.
Let the English Premier League start!
Chelsea star revels in triple international captaincy
Figure 3 or the word THREE is synonymous with Mourinho and Mikel at the present.
While Mourinho has started his third term agenda in the EPL, Nigerian international Mikel Obi who played under the Portuguese coach at Chelsea has also earned his third captaincy band.
Prior to the start of the Olympics Games in Brazil, I wrote a piece on Mikel fulfilling his dreams of finally getting the opportunity to play for Nigeria at every level, a feat previously achieved a few players in the past. And now, it is amazing how things had shaped up positively for the Chelsea star in his international career at the moment. At the start of this year, how many could have predicted that Mikel will become the Super Eagles captain, U-23 team captain as well as the captain of the Nigerian athletes to the Rio 2016 Games in the land of the Samba?
Earlier this year in March, coach Samson Siasia dropped Ahmed Musa for Mikel as Super Eagles captain in his brief stay as interim coach of the national team. Mikel was then picked to captain Team Nigerian to the 2016 Olympics in July and on the heels of that appointment, Siasia again named Mikel as the U-23 team captain with Azubuike Okechukwu stepping down for the Chelsea star. If it were in the military, that would have made Mikel a 3-Star General.
Pray Mikel gets all the luck he needs to succeed in these three roles.