Jose Mourinho: The man with an eternal fear of failure
His team are criticised for their lack of flair, but Manchester United are merely a reflection of Jose Mourinho's complex character
Playing out personal spats in press conferences has become a trait of Jose Mourinho's over the years, and it is the environment that has witnessed the implementation of his finest mind games. In fact, Pep Guardiola once declared that in that room, Mourinho is the chief and the boss, but in more expletive terms.
But while Mourinho famously labelled Arsene Wenger 'a specialist in failure' back in 2014, it was due to the Arsenal manager touching a nerve, and recent Manchester United performances suggest that the provoking factor back then still remains a very sore point even today.
Another well-founded observation of Mourinho by his managerial peers is that he embraces the 'us against the world' mentality, instilling a state of mind within his players to believe that everyone is against them, and that they must pull together against all the odds to triumph. It is an approach that has served him well in terms of results, if not in terms of personal popularity.
Last Saturday, following the 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League, Mourinho turned to the nearest television camera at the final whistle with a simple finger on lips gesture to his critics.
Like most victories for Manchester United this season, it was a lesson in laboured efficiency, a means to an end, a statement that results are more important than playing the perfect way.
Guardiola and the fight against good
Mourinho's approach to games this season has been in direct contrast to that of his rival Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, but with the two sides setting the early pace in the Premier League, there is an argument for both. Guardiola has declared that he will not compromise on his style of play, and that the result is secondary to the performance.
But as Guardiola's Manchester City show United how it should be done in terms of entertainment, the more determined Mourinho is to win through his own effective approach. A city divided in name, colour, and style of play, it is the perfect football story, but it is also now starting to evolve into a story of good versus evil as the two clubs become further apart in every aspect.
Jose Mourinho had a limited playing career, but became a full-time student of the game as he made his way from the very bottom of the football ladder to the very top. His story in the professional ranks began as a translator, and his personal determination to make it against the odds created the character that he is today.
A lesser man with lesser self-confidence, belief and professional drive would have accepted his place in footballing society and settled for the lower-profile status expected of him. Mourinho has proved to be something of a pioneer in the modern game, dispelling the widespread belief that an established playing career is a prerequisite to becoming a successful manager.
Philosophies built on personal character
By comparison, Pep Guardiola was a talented player at the very highest level with Barcelona, and the education that he enjoyed coming through the ranks at La Masia shaped his current coaching and playing philosophy.
A disciple of the late Johan Cruyff and his own unwavering quest for perfection, Guardiola was as much the polar-opposite of Mourinho then as he is now.
It would have been easy for Mourinho to give up on his dreams as he struggled to gain that early respect, and it clearly shaped his current philosophy and mentality in terms of his approach to competing against the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, Guardiola has continued to embrace the respect that has always been awarded to him, and this has equally shaped his approach in his continued search for footballing nirvana.
In his very early years in the game, failure could have spelt the end of Mourinho's career before it had even began. But he didn't let the setbacks phase him, and in time he developed an effective plan that would enable him to dine at football's proverbial top table. His lowly status at the time meant that failure could never be considered as a redeemable option.
But the mentality has continued throughout his career, and while he has brought success at every club he has managed, it has come at a price. Well-documented confrontations with rival teams, managers, press and players have made him the pantomime villain of the modern game, but having made his name against the odds, it is a perception he thrives upon.
Result without risk approach
Despite the criticism of his approach, Manchester United are currently challenging in every domestic competition, and sit on the verge of qualification to the knock-out stages of the UEFA Champions League under his guidance.
There is no doubt that his methods, however ugly they may be, are effective, and there is a very good chance that he will bring more silverware to Old Trafford this season.
For Mourinho, that is the definition of success, to win. And the desire to do so remains so great that the risk of failure prevents any daring approach from his teams. His decisions are calculated to limit the amount of damage his teams can sustain, while ensuring an attacking outlet exists for a moment of quality to be the difference between them and their opponents.
Pep Guardiola has been criticised for his cavalier approach in the past, but now, boasting the right personnel, his Manchester City side are capable of producing the almost impossible standard that he demands.
It is an approach built on risk, regardless of failure, and with the belief that if it is implemented to perfection then the results will naturally follow.
Jose Mourinho will not change. His philosophy is based on his personal character, and his personal character built on his unorthodox route to the very top. His fear of failure remains as strong as ever, and for that reason, his teams will forever play within themselves, and will be forever afraid of the risks that over-expression can cause. That is the brutal truth that defines his moody demeanour.
Mourinho's career will be his defining trophy
Football with Jose Mourinho will never be labelled as the beautiful game, but the success that his proven methods achieve should be. The demands at the highest-level of the modern game mean that results are king, and it is an era that suits Mourinho's approach perfectly.
Frustrating to the purists, Mourinho does not play to please, yet he remains one of the modern day greats.
His external persona does not represent a man who has defied convention to reach such professional utopia. But, it represents a man who now misses the challenge of the make-or-break position he once found himself in.
Mourinho committed his early life towards making it big in the professional game, and the trophies he gains now are just mere token additions to this overall achievement.