Only the turgid eras of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal could make Manchester United fans crave Jose Mourinho’s brand of the beautiful game, no matter how much silverware the Portuguese’s presence promises.
For a while it appeared Mourinho was losing his phoney war with United aristocrats Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton, who reportedly favoured novice coach Ryan Giggs to replace Van Gaal, a view advocated by this writer on this site back in January.
At the time it was argued that if it was between a club legend who did okay during a four-game caretaker spell and could be anything, and a man so set in his ways it seems football is passing him by, then the choice was easy.
United’s great disgrace is that they’ve found themselves in this odd position, the biggest club in the land surveying their closest domestic rivals with managerial envy.
It’s not that Mourinho won’t produce something bordering on good football at Old Trafford – he put out some pretty exciting sides while managing Real Madrid, seeing them bag a whopping 121 La Liga goals during their 2011/12 title winning season.
The problem lies with the 53-year-old’s general football philosophy, similar threads of which could be seen both keeping up and valiantly sending down two North East giants in the Premier League at the back end of last term.
During Mourinho’s first season at Chelsea he effectively played a ‘flat back five’, with Claude Makelele rooted like a tree in front of a defensive four that on occasion consisted of John Terry, William Gallas, Ricardo Carvalho and Robert Huth, all nominally centre-halves.
Similar tactics could be seen from Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce during the Black Cats’ great escape from the top-flight relegation zone over the last few months, with bruising quintet Younes Kaboul, Lamine Kone, Lee Cattermole, Jan Kirchhoff and Yann M’Vila thrust into the fray for a 1-1 draw at Stoke in late April.
Mourinho’s style had changed slightly by the time he arrived back at Chelsea in 2013, with a strategy adapted to fit the fashionable 4-2-3-1 formation, yet he still regularly fielded four defenders who could all play at centre-half and two anchormen, meaning less scope for attacking down the flanks and a more static midfield.
This strategy appears wildly out of touch in relation to Europe’s top teams who, with the exception of surprise Premier League champions Leicester, are all veering towards the Marcelo Bielsa-inspired ‘pressing’ strategy, made most famous by Pep Guardiola.
Liverpool and Manchester City have hoovered up the two most exciting proponents of pressing in Jurgen Klopp and Guardiola, while time will tell whether Mauricio Pochettino’s stint at Tottenham proves successful, but it seemed very promising for much of the past campaign.
With this in mind, United could have gone for broke and engaged Argentine veteran Bielsa in a new project, or taken a chance on his countryman Jorge Sampaoli, now unemployed after an eye-catching, Copa America-winning reign with Chile.
Instead, it appears from the BBC’s latest scoop that Ed Woodward, Fergie and co have held their noses and played safe once again. We can be fairly certain it will all end in tears.