Benitez, Mancini and Wenger: victims of the English game or their own egos?

Originally published for The False Nine on February 28 2013.

As he held the League Cup aloft in victory, shares in Michael Laudrup rattled up the ranks of the managerial stock exchange. His worth had already soared far beyond and above the valuations placed upon him in the summer, and come the close of business in May, it looks likely that Laudrup will have all but confirmed his place as one of the most attractive managerial investments around.

Swansea’s first major trophy in their 100 year history; Europa League entry for next season; exquisite football; the likelihood of an entirely respectable final position in the Premier League; and named as the man fans most want to takeover the reins at Real Madrid – it’s an impressive end-of-season growth report to reflect on for the Dane who co-founded a free-market think tank in his homeland in 2004.

In almost every possible manner, Laudrup has made the perfect first impression on English football. Charming, charismatic and handsome, there is something almost Mourinho-esque about how the league has fallen under his spell. In tabloid speak however, he is the jovial Scandinavian to the Special One’s fiery Portuguese. No wild pronouncements or headline grabbing antagonism, just calm, cool composure and sincerity. Both present comfortable identities that play up to familiar English stereotypes and folk heroes – after all, Mourinho is the much anticipated belated successor to Brian Clough. Continue reading

Mourinho Not the Man to Replace Fergie

Originally published by Pick Our Team on February 13 2013.

The Bernabeu exit looms large over Jose Mourinho. Wherever the Portuguese ends up in the summer, the inevitable intrigue surrounding the Special One’s relocation will guarantee that his flirting courtship with Europe’s richest clubs will be the transfer story of the off-season.

With Mancini’s place at City looking precarious, Roman running out of other top-end options at Chelsea, and both Paris and Anzhi rich enough to potentially woo Mou’s services, Jose won’t be lacking in options. For United fans hoping to see Mourinho take up the challenge of succeeding Sir Alex, these are worrying times.

At 71 years of age, the moment will come (sooner than many of us would like to admit to ourselves) for Fergie to retire, but as rivals circle above, Mou may not be prepared to wait. Can United afford to miss up on one of the world’s most prolific and effective coaches, especially if he ends up at Eastlands? Continue reading