Since the appointment of Jose Mourinho as Manchester United manager was confirmed last Friday, the buzz around the Old Trafford club has been widely broadcast across different media outlets. Links with big name players, such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and a Manchester derby battle with Pep Guardiola are contributing factors to this response from United fans.
However, it’s the outcome of another footballing city derby, the Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, which casts a shadow over the Mourinho appointment. Moreover, it is the managers of the two Spanish sides that leads to questioning whether Mourinho is the right man to bring long term success back to Old Trafford.
What both Madrid sides have, that United had the possibility of, are managers that have played for the club, and understand everything that their club stands for. Diego Simeone, manager of Atletico since December 2011, featured as a player at the club between 1994 and 1997, and again between 2003 and 2005. During his time as a player, Simeone has been able to grasp what the fans of the club want, and understand the identity of the team; in doing so, he has managed to develop a win ratio of over 60% during his time as manager, whilst winning the Europa League in his first season in charge, along with a Copa del Rey victory over rivals Real in 2013. This, clearly, is a manager who understands his club, and what it means to deliver success to them.
Similarly to Simeone at Atletico, Zinedine Zidane had a successful playing career representing the club he now manages, having signed from Juventus in 2001 and remaining there until his retirement in 2006. During his playing time with Real, Zidane won both La Liga, in the 2002-03 season, and the Champions League in 2002, in which he scored a match-winning volley and delivered a Man of the Match performance. Clearly, this experience marks Zidane out as an individual who understands what it takes to be successful at Real. This was demonstrated in Saturday night’s Champions League Final, as Zidane’s side won their 11th Champions League title, and their first trophy since the Frenchman took over as manager in January 2016. Evidently, Zidane’s experience playing for the club gives him an understanding of what it takes to deliver success, just as Simeone has at Atletico.
The main comparison between the two, though, is the sense that both are building something at their respective clubs. Simeone has been in charge of Atletico for four and a half years, and whilst Zidane only took over at Real in January, the Champions League final clearly had a feel of two teams in the process of building something special, both with dynamic, exciting young managers at the helm.
With this in mind, that young managers with playing experience at their clubs are building something exciting, the question rises as to why Manchester United have opted for Jose Mourinho, rather than trusting Ryan Giggs with the role. The Welshman spent 24 years as a player at the club between 1990 and 2014, winning 13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups and two Champions Leagues, among other honours; clearly then, he understands what it means to win with the club, in the way Simeone and Zidane do at Atletico and Real respectively. Furthermore, similarly to Zidane who worked as a number two to Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid, Giggs has worked as assistant to Louis Van Gaal at United; both have gained valuable experience shadowing a European managing great (check Van Gaal’s history if you don’t believe me, United fans).
Mourinho’s success rate is impressive to say the least; Primeira Liga and Champions League titles at FC Porto, Premier League and FA Cup titles at Chelsea, a Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League treble with Inter in 2010, and La Liga and Copa del Rey titles at Real Madrid. However, his success is only short-term, with his longest spell in charge of one side a mere three years. Clearly then, Mourinho is more of a short-term fix for success at United, rather than the man to create a dynasty through his understanding of the club and their supporters. However, that man may be waiting in the wings, and if Mourinho stays true to form and only stays in Manchester for two or three seasons, Giggs may finally get his chance to manage the team he has devoted his career to. If the cases in Madrid are anything to compare against, United could do a lot worse than trusting their former Welsh winger with the top job.