Alex Ferguson believes Jose Mourinho would be capable of stepping into his shoes at Manchester United, but stopped short of saying he is the man who should replace him.
Many have long thought that the Portuguese coach would be the perfect candidate to succeed Ferguson when he does leave Old Trafford, with the two men seeming to share many similar traits, in particular a thirst for winning trophies.
The current Real Madrid boss is no stranger to the English league having won back-to-back titles with Chelsea during a highly successful three-year spell between 2004 and 2007, having initially introduced himself to English fans when his Porto side knocked Ferguson’s United out of the Champions League in 2003.
That Porto team went on to win the European Cup and speaking to an ITV programme to celebrate the 49-year-old’s 10 years at the top of management, Ferguson admitted he has got what it takes to manage any club in the world.
When asked if Mourinho could replace him, he told ITV4: “He can manage anywhere, absolutely. I’m not going to put any forecasts on what is going to happen at this club. I won’t last forever, but Jose can manage anywhere, there is no question about that.”
Unlike Ferguson, a player of some repute during his career, Mourinho had little success on the field, making his haul of 21 trophies from 10 years in the dugout all the more impressive.
“I would never think a guy who hasn’t played a game could be a top coach, but then you’ve got to look at his personality, I think his personality does it,” Ferguson added.
“He’s got a marvellous, strong personality and I think that bridges that gap.
“That’s incredible (his trophy haul). How old is he now? Fiftieth year. So he is 20 years behind me. At the same rate he is going to add another 42 trophies. At the current rate, (that is) amazing isn’t it?”
Upon arriving at Chelsea Mourinho caused a media storm when he referred to himself as a ’Special One’, a nickname which has stuck with him through subsequent trophy-laden spells with Inter Milan and Madrid.
“I remember his first press conference (at Chelsea) and I thought ’he’s a cocky b****r, him’,” Ferguson said.
“He was telling the players, ’Look, I’m the Special One, we don’t lose games’. Bloody hell, coming to England, he is only a young man and saying he is the Special One! But what it did, it told all the players to have the belief they were going to win the league.”
Mourinho himself has made no secret of his desire to return to England - speculation as to where has raged ever since he left Chelsea in 2007 – and he told the programme he would like to win the Champions League with an English club.
With his Madrid side still in this year’s competition and having won it already at Porto and Inter, Mourinho said: “In my whole career everything was perfect, the only thing I didn’t do, and I hope I can do it one day, is to win a Champions League with an English club.”
According to the man many view as a ‘mini Mourinho‘, though, a greater motivation burns for his old mentor.
Until he joined Tottenham in the summer, Andre Villas-Boas’ career had mirrored Mourinho‘s, taking in Porto and Chelsea, although he lasted significantly less time at Stamford Bridge.
But he knows Mourinho well having scouted for him at Chelsea and Inter, and believes the chance to manage his country will one day tempt his old boss.
“Here was a person coming out of a completely different education. He changed the way people trained. Changed the way people spoke about the game," he said.
“I have to say at this moment, if I am sitting here it is because Jose changed the legacy of Portuguese football.
“I think he will be extremely driven to win the World Cup for his country. And when that happens, when statistically he’s the best manager that has ever been then I think he will finally leave the game.”
:: The documentary ’Mourinho’ will air on ITV4 at 10pm on Monday, December 3.