LONDON: Jose Mourinho has signed on the dotted line for Manchester United as new manager and been formally confirmed – after four months of ever more intense speculation – by the club.
Louis van Gaal’s turbulent two-year reign was brought to an end on Monday as FA Cup glory was unable to mask poor Premier League performances in terms of style and substance.
United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes began talks the following day, although it took until Friday for official confirmation as the terms of the contract were ironed out.
He said: “To become Manchester United manager is a special honour in the game. 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.
“I have always felt an affinity with Old Trafford; it has hosted some important memories for me in my career and I have always enjoyed a rapport with the United fans. I’m looking forward to being their manager and enjoying their magnificent support in the coming years.”
Mourinho’s immediate task is to revive United’s ailing fortunes, having finished fifth in the Premier League and missed out on Champions League qualification.
The Red Devils will instead take part in the Europa League next term, but Woodward is confident things will improve under the Portuguese.
He said: “Jose is quite simply the best manager in the game today. He has has won trophies and inspired players in countries across Europe and, of course, he knows the Premier League very well, having won three titles here.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome him to Manchester United. His track record of success is ideal to take the club forward.”
This week’s negotiations were delayed due to discussions over Mourinho’s image rights.
The Portuguese called United a “monster club” in October but they, much like their new manager, have reputations to rebuild.
Mourinho’s second spell at Stamford Bridge came to an embarrassing end in December, with the Premier League champions looking to beat the drop rather than retain their crown when he departed.
A ninth league loss in 16 matches spelled the end of his reign, which the club’s technical director Michael Emenalo pinned on “palpable discord” between the manager and his players.
Mourinho was swiftly linked with the United job as pressure mounted on Van Gaal, the man he once assisted at Barcelona. The Dutchman saw out the season despite that scrutiny and ended on a high, beating Crystal Palace 2-1 after extra-time in Saturday’s FA Cup final.
However, that did not make up for the pain of missing out on Champions League football, with United having wasted the chance to usurp neighbours Manchester City and sneak into the top four.
Europa League football awaits as a result, but Mourinho’s arrival and United’s standing mean big-name signings remain on the cards.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who the Portuguese managed at Inter Milan, is one such player and on Thursday signalled a move to Old Trafford could be in the pipeline. The Sweden striker is leaving Paris St Germain this summer and confirmed he has had “concrete offers” from Premier League clubs.
Ibrahimovic did not mention United specifically but spoke of his “great relationship” with former boss Mourinho.
Regarding the prospect of Mourinho taking over at United, Ibrahimovic said: “I think it is a great move – if you want action you bring Mourinho. I believe he is the man to take them back to the top. Wherever he went he has won. He knows what he is doing. If you want to win, you bring Mourinho.
“When I left Inter I said we had had a short time together but a great time. If we will work together again, I don’t know. Let’s see how things play out.”
Ryan Giggs is reportedly considering ending his near 29-year association with the club. United’s most decorated player has an offer to stay on, although it is unclear what that role would be having been assistant to Van Gaal.