Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Can Mourinho's stock remain high long enough to win battle of succession at United?

Alex Ferguson in 1986
Since Sir Alex Ferguson announced "three more years" just before the shock defeat to Blackburn, the spotlight on succession at Old Trafford has intensified. The three-nil defeat at Newcastle doesn't help Fergie either.

Fergie cites good health and vigour for staying on. He's just turned 70 having completed a quarter-century at Old Trafford in November. Winning is a great tonic and he does seem in rude health.

But just as the England job is dubbed a poisoned chalice, United is whatever the opposite of that is: a refreshing glass of water on a summer's day perhaps -  it's an urgent requirement for those with wildblood..

O'Neill at Sunderland: contender for United job.
Of the two perennial frontrunners, one's sharpened his credentials just by taking a high profile job in the Premier League; the other jokingly referred to a return to a big stage in England in two years, made days before Fergie's seemingly unprompted remark.

I talk of course of Martin O'Neill and Jose Mourinho. O'Neill, whose sheer force of intellect and personality light up wherever he goes, would be a Sunderland hero with Europa League qualification or a trophy. The Roker Roar's been on mute since they left Roker.

Mourinho is the itinerant winning machine. So portable and successful in England, Italy and now Spain at the world's most glamorous club stage. His Midas touch is so powerful, he even got an assist in Andre Villas-Boas' big chance at Chelsea just by being young Portuguese and winning at Porto in similar fashion.

As with Inter, Mourinho's got to wrestle with the best Barcelona of all-time, but as in Italy where Milan and Juventus were beaten off, who'd back against the Portugeezer?

The Special Two
United must learn from their own history though. They've attempted to replace the irreplaceable before. When Sir Matt Busby left, United scrambled round for the right man, a decision at which they repeatedly failed, ending in tearful relegation.

So how to replace the greatest club manager of all time? well, it's got to be someone who consigns United's immediate regime to the past while continually winning at the same pace. A contradiction in terms surely not lost on the Old Trafford ownership. 

Chin up. Mourinho's eyeing Old Trafford
But in reality, it's no different to the way Fergie runs United now. He enjoys the win for a couple of days, then sets the clock back to zero ready to conquer again.
And in both leading candidates, they have the capacity to create distracting tabloid headlines to focus on the hype of the present and ensure the past is the inspiration not the millstone.

Yes, there's other candidates I've not mentioned here: David Moyes, Josep Guardiola, even Eric Cantona's name gets chucked in occasionally, but why look further when there are two outstanding candidates with the all-round CV?

If Mourinho can maintain his reputation as the Special One, I take him to replace Ferguson when the Govanator calls time as Old Trafford's ultimate keeper of the temple.

With that stand named after Sir Alex and squad problems, will the opportunity come faster than the Special One thought?