Jose Mourinho has signed what’s known in the industry as a pre-contract agreement to joing Manchester United, but the club reserves the option to not sign him as manager. That’s the current situation, according to fresh reports in the Spanish and British press.
Spain’s El Pais reported yesterday that Mourinho signed an agreement to move to Old Trafford last month, the terms of which allow United to change their mind if they wish. The report, which cites a source from Jorge Mendes’ company Gestifute, claims that if the final contract isn’t signed by the end of April, United must pay Mourinho £5m in compensation; if it’s not signed by 1st June, that’s another £10m.
How reliable is El Pais?
The story has been treated with enough credibility to be covered on The Guardian website and in The Observer, but is it really that reliable, or just yet another addition to the rolling rumour-mill? The article was written by Diego Torres, author of The Special One: The Dark Side of Jose Mourinho – he is a respected figure in Spain, and is known as one of the “premier investigative journalists in Spanish football.” He has had to defend himself against accusations of an “obsession” with Mourinho, but he has a reputation to maintain, and has little obvious motivation to write unsubstantiated stories about the manager’s next move. So the signs are that this is a well-founded report based on information from a reliable source, and worth taking pretty seriously.
What does this tell us about United?
I’m not a legal expert, but I know that pre-contracts for players are a grey area, so I wonder how the reported agreement with Mourinho might pan out. What if we decide we want to sign him, but he decides he actually wants to go back to Real Madrid, for example? Would he then owe us compensation?! My main concern is the absolute lack of decisiveness and strategic clarity this whole approach implies – at what point will the club make up their minds about whether Mourinho is the man they want? Are they exploring other options, or just giving themselves time to mull the whole thing over? Is this just a contingency plan in case we don’t get the target we’re really after? Perhaps there’s more of a gameplan here than meets the eye, but that’s certainly not the impression I’m getting, especially when the club’s entire recruitment and player development policy has looked so incoherent in recent times.
Would Mourinho be the right man for United?
This is an ongoing subject of debate for fans, and opinions often seem to shift from one week to the next, especially in the reactive, attention-hungry echo chamber of social media, but my view has always been that Mourinho is not the manager United should appoint. I didn’t want him after Fergie, and I don’t want him now. As for Giggs, I’ll admit I’ve been a bit less steady on that front, at times getting caught up in the romanticism of it all, but with the club in such disarray, it now seems like far too big a risk. My choice would be Pochettino – what about you?