London (AFP) – Manchester United on Friday anointed Jose Mourinho as their third new manager in less than three years in their bid to reinstate the club as a title-winning force in England and Europe.
After three days of talks, Mourinho agreed a three-year contract on a bumper salary reportedly worth more than $20 million (19.5 million euros) a year.
But the 53-year-old Portuguese supercoach, who has 22 honours to his name, said it was the “mystique” of United that drew him to the challenge of reviving one the world’s biggest football clubs.
“Manchester United is one of these clubs where you need really to be prepared for it because it is what I used to call a giant club,” Mourinho said.
“Giant clubs must be for the best managers and I think I’m ready,” he told the club’s television channel.
“To become Manchester United manager is a special honour in the game,” Mourinho added.
“It is a club known and admired throughout the world. There is a mystique and a romance about it which no other club can match.”
The Red Devils need dragging out of the doldrums after first David Moyes and then Louis van Gaal failed to emulate the title-laden glory years under Alex Ferguson, who retired in 2013.
He told the club’s television channel that he wanted to “forget the past three years” at United.
“I want to win,” he said.
“I will give absolutely everything to try and go in the direction we all want”.
Mourinho seemed destined to manage United ever since his Porto side eliminated Ferguson’s men en route to winning the 2004 Champions League.
He thought his time had come when Ferguson retired, but concerns over his volatile personality prompted United to pick the more reserved Moyes instead.
But with that move proving a disaster and Van Gaal faring little better, United’s powerbrokers sacked the Dutchman on Monday and decided at last to gamble on Mourinho, despite his turbulent reputation.
– Chelsea acrimony –
“Jose is quite simply the best manager in the game today,” said United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.
Mourinho has won league titles and cups in four countries with Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. He won the Champions League for a second time with Inter in 2010.
Mourinho was sacked by Chelsea in December after a disastrous start to the season that saw the defending champions hovering near the relegation zone amid acrimony between the manager and his players and staff.
Before the new season begins, Mourinho will have to face the fall-out from his second spell at Stamford Bridge.
Former Blues doctor Eva Carneiro is claiming constructive dismissal in a case against Chelsea and has a separate personal legal action against Mourinho for alleged victimisation and discrimination.
The employment tribunal, which could take seven to 10 days, will be heard in public between June 6 and 24 unless a settlement is reached first.
There was no word from the Red Devils on the future of club stalwart Ryan Giggs, who has spent nearly three decades at Old Trafford as a player and then as Van Gaal’s deputy.
– Mourinho a ‘wounded animal’ –
Mourinho will hope to make significant improvements to an unbalanced and often lacklustre United squad before the new season begins in August.
Media reports said he will have £200 million ($293m, 262m euros) to bring in fresh faces, with former Paris Saint-Germain forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Everton defender John Stones reportedly on his wish list.
The new season could become a battle royale between Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, the incoming boss of bitter rivals Manchester City.
When Mourinho was in charge of Real Madrid and Guardiola running their sworn enemy Barcelona, the Portuguese relished taking a swipe at the Spaniard.
United finished fifth last season behind champions Leicester, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City, thereby failing to qualifying for the lucrative Champions League.
Missing out on joining Europe’s elite next season ultimately cost Van Gaal his job on Monday, despite winning the FA Cup two days before.
Former United defender Rio Ferdinand said Mourinho needed to instil a winning mentality back into the club.
“This is Jose Mourinho’s most exciting and most challenging job yet,” the former England captain said.
After Chelsea, “this winner is now a wounded animal which makes him such a mouthwatering appointment.
“Mourinho’s huge personality is made for this great club.”
Outside Old Trafford, fans were already snapping up Mourinho scarves.
“We’ve had two managers who have tried and failed. Let’s hope it’s third time lucky,” scarf seller John told AFP.
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