Manchester United’s poor start to the season has left some of their fans wondering what might have been. Would they have been better off with Jose Mourinho? And what would have happened if David Moyes had gone to Chelsea? We asked Iain Macintosh to give it some thought.
Radiating satisfaction, Jose Mourinho is unveiled to the press at Old Trafford. “He was always our first choice,” beams United's unblinking executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward. “This is the job I have been waiting for,” announces Mourinho. “All my life, I have looked to Old Trafford for inspiration. It is an honour to replace my hero Sir Alex Ferguson.” No-one notices how grumpy Sir Bobby Charlton looks.
“David Moyes spent over 10 years at Goodison Park,” says Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck proudly, “and we’re hoping he spends just as long here at Stamford Bridge. This is a move made very much with the future in mind. Stability is key.” Moyes looks delighted with his new job. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Goodison Park, but I can’t wait to get started here and work with these players.” Alongside him, John Terry smiles politely.
After United's comfortable opening day win at Swansea, Mourinho is forced onto the defensive following a grim 0-0 draw with Chelsea. “They had no shots on target. We had one shot on target. And you say that we are the boring team?” New signing Luiz Gustavo is the best of Mourinho’s six central midfielders. A better performance is seen at Anfield the following week when United dismantle Liverpool. Meanwhile, Adnan Januzaj leaves on a year long loan to PSV Eindhoven.
Chelsea open their campaign with a nervous 1-0 victory over Hull. Strike partnership Romelu Lukaku and Fernando Torres show signs of promise up front, but Hull’s midfield swamp Frank Lampard and Marouane Fellaini. “With better finishing, we could have taken something from that,” rues Hull manager Steve Bruce. Moyes responds by growling, “Who got the three points, eh?” and praising the performance of young Tomas Kalas.
United are beaten by Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. “This is normal,” says Mourinho. “When you have a team that has been allowed to decay, this is normal. Look at City. Look at their midfield. They have Fernandinho. They have Yaya. They have Navas. What do I have? I have Cleverley.” Sir Alex Ferguson decides to spend more time at the race-track.
Chelsea drop more points, drawing with Tottenham and Fulham in the league and losing to Basle in Europe. Oscar reacts angrily to his substitution in Switzerland, tearing his shirt off and throwing it on the ground. “Oscar is just a little frustrated,” his agent tells the tabloid press. “He’s not really a left-winger.” Moyes puts the defeat down to poor officiating and promises that things will improve. “It’s important that we all stand by the manager,” says a defiant Terry in the mixed zone.
United’s 3-0 win over Southampton is marred by a touchline brawl between the coaching staff after repeated dives by Ashley Young. “I promise you, I have not told him to dive,” protests Mourinho afterwards. “Honestly. He just falls over a lot. We’re having him tested.” The manager is also heavily criticised after the 1-1 draw with Stoke City when he blames the result on a combination of climate change and fluoride in the water. Charlton pointedly reminds Mourinho of his responsibilities to the good name of the club in an interview with a Sunday newspaper.
Defeat at home to Manchester City leaves Chelsea floundering in sixth place. Moyes explains that it will take time for the team to settle and that repeated upheaval at the club has made it, “a far more difficult job than anyone realises.” He also blames the linesman for mistakenly awarding City a throw-in on the halfway line that came to nothing. “We’ve got to get used to that kind of thing,” he mumbles darkly. Alongside him, Terry smiles politely.
United go from strength to strength, with Wayne Rooney and Willian in particularly potent form. An excellent 2-0 victory over Arsenal is enough to reclaim first place in the Premier League, though Mourinho causes more controversy when he compares Arsene Wenger to, “a ageing small town head teacher who has given up on his students.” When questioned on Sir Bobby Charlton’s remarks, Mourinho claims never to have heard of him. “The bald guy?” he shrugs. “I just thought he was someone’s grandfather who had got lost.”
A well-sourced story appears in a newspaper claiming that David Moyes has lost the Chelsea dressing room. “He’s struggled with the senior players since he arrived,” says an unnamed dressing room source. “He keeps trying to tell everyone what to do and you know what happens to people who make that mistake here. Plus, you know, he’s got funny eyes.” Chelsea are held 0-0 by West Ham at Stamford Bridge and slip to seventh.
When asked if he feels that United have the resources to compete for the title, Mourinho says, "I do not think the board expect the title. They cannot. We have Alex Buttner. We have Tom Cleverley. Why would we win the title? I think it is obvious that they would be happy with fourth. I will do my best to oblige" An hour later, United issue a statement claiming that 200 million pounds has been made available for transfer. Mourinho is later seen in a restaurant laughing his head off.
Frustrated by Chelsea's packed schedule, Moyes makes an extraordinary attack on the Premier League's fixture computer, describing it as, "corrupt, biased and quite obviously a Liverpool supporter." He attempts to allay the fears of supporters by promising a spending spree in January. Sources claim that Leighton Baines and Leon Osman are at the top of his shopping list .
“Manchester United Football Club would like to pay tribute to Sir Bobby Charlton, who stepped down from the board of directors today to begin his retirement. We wish Sir Bobby and his family all the best for the future.”
“Chelsea Football Club has parted company this morning with manager David Moyes. We’d like to thank David for his hard work since he arrived at the club and we wish him all the best for the future. The board felt that a change was necessary now to keep the club moving in the right direction and we appeal for the fans to give their full support to new manager John Terry.”