Picture the scene. Old Trafford, June. The wind blows an empty crisp packet across the hallowed turf as a lone figure emerges slowly from the tunnel. The stadium empty except for the man walking out to the centre circle to gaze around his new home. The Theatre of Dreams. The theatre from his dreams.
Then, like a mid-2000s X Factor reject, he whispers quietly to himself: "It's Jose Time."
Not saying that Jose Mourinho would be quite that melodramatic of course, but those kind of self-indulgent theatrics do seem right in his wheelhouse. The kind of self-indulgent theatrics that United fans could see week in, week out, sooner rather than later.
If we assume that Louis van Gaal's headed out the door in the summer, as appears to be the case, United chiefs have an absolutely enormous decision to make. To Mou, or not to Mou?
Any managerial appointment is a big one for a club of United's size, but this is bigger than most. This is the appointment which will reveal exactly which direction the club is taking in the future. United aren't 'just another club', this isn't 'just another change of manager', and Mourinho certainly isn't 'just another manager'.
United are, for a club of their high expectations and recent record, in crisis. Staring down the barrel of a third successive season without a single piece of silverware would be bad enough, but allied with the prospect of a second season out of three without Champions League qualification? Disastrous.
Therein lies the appeal of Mourinho. He's won league titles and domestic cups in four different countries. He's got two Champions League titles. Never needs much of a bedding in period. Jose Mourinho is success, success is Jose Mourinho, and success is exactly what United, as a club, demands.
It looks like a simple choice, but the Portuguese manager comes with a 'cons' list as long as his CV. Mourinho is also discord. Mourinho is drama. Mourinho is your club being turned upside down and dragged through the media every few years. Nothing ever comes without a cost, and this is his.
Everything that the 53-year-old brings with him is the antithesis of United's philosophy throughout the Premier League era. Mourinho would dearly love to be Sir Alex Ferguson, but he brings the bollockings and media pressure with a heavy, undisciplined hand. He acts like a spoilt child mimicking a great, with none of the subtleties which allowed Ferguson's methods to work.
hat's why, instead of ever replicating the Scot's 26-year reign, Mourinho finds himself chased out of clubs after just a couple of years. The question for United is whether the short-term success is worth the long-term issues that a Mourinho reign brings. It's a pivotal decision, a key moment in the future of the club as a whole. Do they chase glory and titles at the cost of stability and future generations? Do they, in essence, leave behind what it is to be Manchester United in the search for a quick fix?
For a sneak preview of life as a United fan under Mourinho, just look around now at the division within the fanbase at the mere mention of his name. At the thought that he could be the next leader of England's most successful club. The cracks are already beginning to show.
These are dangerous waters for United and, frankly, there may not be a 'right answer'. The decision will, ultimately, lie in a question of values. Is it better to build a team for long-term excellence, patiently bringing through youth players and risking some time in the wilderness, or does the club have a responsibility to win trophies now and deal with the future when it arrives?
From the outside looking in, the next 12 months are going to be a fascinating, revealing insight into the mindsets of the decision-makers at Old Trafford. But short of building a time machine in order to go back and nudge Pep Guardiola to the other side of Manchester, there's no solution that'll keep everyone happy.
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