Sometimes people rub you up the wrong way at work, don’t they? Colleagues, bosses, underlings, reps, salespeople, site managers – whoever. They say or do something that really grinds your gears and you know you’re never going to forget it and bury the hatchet with them. The same is true in football, of course. But most of the time, it’s a bad foul or insult and the hatred’s gone once the final whistle’s blown. Unless the fall out happens between managers, of course…
Clough and Revie, Capello and Sacchi, Benitez and Ferguson. When bosses’ egos collide, it can often be an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. And perhaps the greatest managerial rivalry of the modern day Premier League era? Between the professorial and usually calm long coat-wearing Arsene Wenger and the fiery, argumentative trenchcoat-favouring Jose Mourinho.
The two meet again this weekend and it makes us recall, back in early 2014, when the then-Chelsea boss said this about his Arsenal rival: “If he is right and I am afraid of failure it is because I didn’t fail many times. Eight years without silverware, that’s failure. Arsene Wenger is a specialist in failure.”
Mourinho’s since had to eat his words a little, failing himself more than once since saying that. Here’s some of the pair’s biggest football failings so far…
Losing The Dressing Room At Real
When you get the call from Real Madrid to take over at the club, you know you’re doing well in your job. The Portuguese manager may have left Chelsea the first time under a tiny cloud, but his reputation was strong. He was the man for the job. Granted, his Barcelona background concerned a few fans. And his reputation as defensive worried a few others, but few kicked up a real stink (if you’ll pardon the pun).
He started well. He was a success. Real walked the league with a record 100 points. But after that? No Champions League, no permanently toppling of rivals Barca. And his final season? A seemingly deliberate sabotage. The ‘Special One’ fell out with club legend Iker Casillas (dangerous) and The World’s Best Player – at the time – Cristiano Ronaldo (suicide). His belittling of Casillas especially turned the entire dressing room against him. Soon? He was off.
His 2015 Chelsea Collapse
Mourinho may have left Real Madrid under another cloud, but his homecoming return to Stamford Bridge was met by fans as a Second Coming. Chelsea fans couldn’t have been more chuffed. Again, his first year was excellent. Again, he returned the club to winning ways pretty early on. But again, things quickly tailed off and he fell out with everyone. In his final season nine defeats in sixteen league games saw him dismissed (sorry, ‘leave by mutual consent’). Why? The club called it ‘a palpable discord with players’. When problems arose, he didn’t work out solutions. He screamed. He shouted. He sulked. He left.
Not Improving On Moyes Or van Gaal
A similar situation again. Yet another dark cloud followed Mourinho to Old Trafford. His reputation was enough to see him as the obvious choice for the job. It’s a big, complicated and seemingly tainted position is being Manchester United manager. It’s not one you turn down and it’s a role Mourinho has coveted for some time. But his impact has been, well, minimal so far. His record up to this point is no better than his two predecessors, David Moyes or Louis van Gaal. And his apparent throwing of the Europa League has disappointed some fans. Oh, and guess what? He’s already started falling out with players.
Will history repeat itself again…? That dark cloud awaits.
Ashley Cole’s Departure
When Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea back in 2006, the media narrative was that he was a greedy and arrogant swine with no loyalty. Wenger and the board offered the former Arsenal youth player £55,000 a week. Far less than a lot of other players at the club. The club felt that as ‘One of Them’ he’d just accept that amount. Cole felt he was worth more and he was. He was the world’s best left back and duly moved west to sign for Mourinho and Chelsea. For £120,000 a week.
Taunts of ‘Cashley’ and fake £20 notes being waved at him followed his badly-advised and poorly-worded ‘trembling with anger’ autobiography admission. Fans felt his tale of having to pull his car over as he was so shocked at the £55k offer was proof of greed. But it was really just proof that he was being given a bad deal. A bad deal signed off by the famously tight-fisted Wenger. As it was, Arsenal lost one of their best players. A rival gained him. He went on to give eight near-perfect years for Chelsea.
‘That’ Suarez Bid
Another of Arsene Wenger’s biggest failures concerns his bum-squeaking frugality. At a time when the Gunners really needed a world class striker (a position latter filled by Alexis Sanchez), their top target was Luis Suarez. Now, as we all know now, he would go on to sign for Barcelona and help form the deadliest strike trio ever seen in world football. But back then? He was a red-hot Liverpool frontman who could be tempted to move south to the capital…
So what does Wenger do? With his hand tightly clamped to his wallet, he finds out Suarez’s release fee (£40,000,000) and offers a quid over it (£40,000,001). Naturally, everyone involved is offended and the deal’s laughed off the table. Wenger – in charge of a hugely cash-rich club – blows the best deal he could ever have dreamed of.
Lack Of Real Progress
We’ve saved the biggest failure of either manager’s careers for last. It’s not really a specific event here, but Arsene Wenger’s twenty year reign at Arsenal is unusual. Most managers only last a season now. So to be in charge of such a big club for so long, you’d figure he’d really pulled up trees in that time, right? And, well, he hasn’t. Sure, he’s won trophies and bought and developed some good players. But he’s also lost a lot of trophies. And bought a lot of poor players. He’s done a lot of good things. Just not quite enough.
You can’t be a football manager at the very top for as long as these two without having made a few mistakes. They’re both still top class football managers though with plenty more to give. Let’s see how the pair get on at Old Trafford at Saturday lunchtime.