Manchester United on Friday anointed Jose Mourinho as their new manager to launch a third bid in less than three years to transform the Red Devils into a title-winning force again.
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 said it was the “mystique” of United that drew him to the challenge. United, one the world’s biggest football clubs, need reviving after first David Moyes and then Louis van Gaal failed to emulate the glory years of Alex Ferguson.
“To become Manchester United manager is a special honour in the game,” Mourinho said in a club statement.
“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 seemed destined to manage United ever since his Porto side eliminated Ferguson’s men from the 2004 Champions League. Porto went on to win the title.
He thought his time had come when Ferguson retired in 2013, but concerns over his volatile personality prompted United to turn to the more reserved Moyes instead.
But with that move proving a disaster and Van Gaal faring little better, United’s powerbrokers have decided to take a chance on Mourinho, despite his turbulent reputation.
Media reports said Mourinho will earn up to 15 million ($21 million/19.6 million euros) a year and will have a 200 million fund to buy players for United who failed to qualify for the Champions League with their fifth-placed finish in the English Premier League under Van Gaal.
– Challenge of remoulding squad –
“Jose is quite simply the best manager in the game today,” said United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.
“He 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.”
Mourinho was sacked by Chelsea in December but has established a reputation as one of the best coaches in the game.
He has won league titles and cups in four countries with Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. He won the Champions League in 2004 with Porto and in 2010 with Inter Milan.
United released a picture taken Thursday of a smiling Mourinho holding up the club’s red home shirt.
The Red Devils’ statement on Mourinho’s appointment did not mention the future of Ryan Giggs, the club stalwart and Van Gaal’s deputy who had been seen as a potential successor to the Dutchman.
Giggs, 42, knows the club inside out, has spent nearly three decades there as a player and then on the coaching staff.
Mourinho is expected to bring long-time assistant Rui Faria and goalkeeping coach Silvino Louro with him, meaning Van Gaal’s assistant coaches Albert Stuivenberg and Frans Hoek are likely to be dismissed.
Mourinho will hope to have significantly improved an unbalanced and often lacklustre United squad by the time the new season begins in August.
Former Paris Saint-Germain forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sporting Lisbon midfielder Joao Mario, Everton defender John Stones, Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic and Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann are reportedly among the names on his wanted list.
But Mourinho might also have to deal with scepticism from the squad at Old Trafford after a report that some senior players have already expressed concern the tactically defensive coach might prove too similar to Van Gaal, whose tactics frustrated United fans.