Jose Mourinho At 61: The Managerial Maverick Who Has Excelled In Europe

The Sportsman pays tribute to 'The Special One' on his birthday
11:00, 26 Jan 2024

‘The Special One’ turns 61 today. Jose Mourinho has had an indelible impact on football during his managerial career. Whether it was turning Porto from underdogs to European champions, taking Chelsea into the Premier League elite or duking it out with Pep Guardiola on either side of El Clasico; he has been inescapable.

Mourinho has even defined the very lexicon surrounding our game. The term ‘park the bus’ can be heard every weekend somewhere, in grounds or across social media, when describing a team making a concerted defensive effort. Many coaches excel in football, few come to define.

Ever the trailblazer, Mourinho is also a European record holder. The only manager in history to have won the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League titles. To celebrate this milestone birthday, The Sportsman looks back on Mourinho’s magnificent record of lifting continental silverware.

Porto 3-2 Celtic, 2003 UEFA Cup Final

The Portuguese manager’s first flush with a European trophy came against British opposition. The mighty Celtic of Martin O’Neill gave Mourinho a stern test, going up 2-1 with a brace from the great Henrik Larsson. Brazilian star Derlei notched a double of his own, either side of a Dmitri Alenichev strike, to end Porto’s 16-year wait for European silverware in extra time. A spectacular end to Mourinho’s first full season in charge, and a sign of big things to come.

Monaco 0-3 Porto, 2004 Champions League Final

Mourinho had already arrived in worldwide consciousness by this point. His iconic knee slide along the Old Trafford touchline in the round of 16 saw to that. But it was in winning this most unexpected of Champions League finals that his legend began to take shape. Carlos Alberto, Deco and UEFA Cup final scorer Alenichev got the goals as part of a squad that featured no less than five players who would go on to feature for Chelsea.


Bayern Munich 0-2 Inter Milan, 2010 Champions League final

Trebles aren’t for everyone, but Mourinho made one his own during his time in Italy. The Nerazzurri came into the Champions League final off the back of Serie A and Coppa Italia success. Defeating holders Barcelona in the semi-final was an early shot across the bow in Mourinho’s war with Pep Guardiola. Louis van Gaal’s Bayern Munich were swept aside 2-0 in the final, by virtue of a Diego Milito brace. Mourinho would follow Van Gaal onto the podium to collect his winner’s medal. Six years later, he would follow him into a job.

Ajax 0-2 Manchester United, 2017 Europa League Final

While the league season had not gone to plan, with United finishing sixth, this victory was seen as a positive sign for the future. Wedded to the League Cup Mourinho had won a few months before, and the Community Shield he cared about even if many others didn’t, it was a convincing argument. While these weren’t the premiere prizes, Mourinho’s knack for winning trophies looked set to bring a winning mentality back to Old Trafford.

It ended how it always does for Jose of course, with bitter words and acrimony. But on this May night at the Friends Arena, just two days after the Manchester Arena bombings had shaken a city, everything came together. A young, promising Ajax side containing future Red Donny van de Beek were beaten 2-0. Goals arrived from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba. The former will be part of Mourinho’s Roma squad against Feyenoord. The latter perhaps never bettered this display in a further five years at United. This was supposed to be the start of Jose’s brave new era at United. Instead, it was the apex.

Roma 1-0 Feyenoord, 2022 Europa Conference League Final

Mourinho completed the set in May of 2022 when he led his current side to victory in UEFA’s tertiary competition. After a messy end to his United tenure and his failure to launch at Tottenham Hotspur, observers had begun to question ‘The Special One’. But on this night in Tirana, he proved he still has what it takes to secure silverware.

This game against Arne Slot’s Feyenoord was a nailbiter. Nicolo Zaniolo’s opener came just 32 minutes in, meaning the following hour was played on the edge of a knife. The Dutch side actually outdid their Serie A counterparts for both shots and shots on target. But the fact defender Chris Smalling won Man of the Match was instructive, as Roma launched a defensive masterclass to lift the cup.

To celebrate, Mourinho got a tattoo of the European trophies that he, and only he, has won. A special memento for a ‘Special One’.

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