Respect. It is not just an Otis Redding song, or Aretha Franklin’s cover version.
It is, memorably, what Jose Mourinho demanded when he first came under fire as his Manchester United side struggled, and it what he was keen to show Tottenham’s supporters and their recently departed manager Mauricio Pochettino just hours after replacing the Argentinian.
Mourinho may be among the most stubborn, single-minded and (whisper it quietly in his presence) arrogant of managers, but he reads the room better than most.
He cannot be unaware the majority of Tottenham’s fans are unhappy with events of the past few days, with the sacking of the popular Pochettino followed swiftly by Mourinho’s appointment. Around two-thirds of those polled on Wednesday said they would rather retain Pochettino than have the Portuguese replace him, and, at first glance, the two managers are as different as chalk and cheese.
Pochettino has won admirers far beyond the blue and white side of north London because he comes across as a likeable and modest man, someone who believes in developing young players rather than spending big in the transfer market, and likes his teams to play attacking, attractive football.
Mourinho, on the other hand, is perceived to bearrogant, Machiavellian, high maintenance and high-spending, preferring to go big in the transfer market than take risks with youngsters from the academy, and mostdamning of all, a coach whose default set-up is boring, defensive football.
For Tottenham fans you can add in the added negativity of his association with their bitter rivals Chelsea, with whom he made his name in England by winning three Premier League titles.
As recently as four years ago, during his second spell at the club, he said he could never manage Spurs because he was a Chelsea man, through and through.
So a charm offensive was required, and if those are two words that have been usedrepeatedly about Mourinho over the years, he is superbly equipped to win over doubters. He began his press conference with a paean toPochettino, praising his predecessor’s good work and adding that the Argentinian would always be welcome back to the club he had transformed into challengers for the Premier League and Champions League titles over the past five years.
“I have to congratulate him for the work he did,” said the man whose agent Pini Zahavi approached Daniel Levy some weeks ago to suggestMourinho should take over from Pochettino.
“This club will always be his home, this training ground will always be his training ground, he can come when he wants, when he misses the players, when he misses the people he worked with, the door is always open for him.”
It’s safe to assume Pochettino is unlikely to take up the offer any time soon.
Mourinho then went on to outline his grand ambitions for Tottenham, who have a training facility, stadium, and squad that is among the best in Europe.
He stopped short of talking about a ‘project’ but he clearly shares Levy’s vision of taking Tottenham up a notch, to the pinnacle of the game.
“The potential of the club is huge. It was one of the reasons I came because the vision Mr Levy put in front of me about his club and the quality of the players, the quality of the squad, were the main reasons why I decided to come. I know I have a great job in my hands and I am more than happy to be here.”
As for the squad, he made it clear he would ratherconvince players such as Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld to stay than go into the notoriously difficult January transfer market.
Players? I don’t need new players. I am so happy with what I have. I just need time to understand them better and know everything about them because you only know a player when you work with them.
“Of course I have watched these guys many times, played against them many times. I knew them well but you never know them well enough until you work with them.”
He was asked about his quote from four years ago, about never managing Spurs because he was known as ‘Mr Chelsea’. Laughter followed when he quipped: “That was before they sacked me!
“I think the fans have to see me as Mr Inter, Mr Real Madrid, Mr Porto. Every club I go to, as I used to say in a funny way, I arrive, I wear the pyjamas of the club and I even sleep with the pyjamas. I work and I sleep in the tracksuit and pyjamas. You confuse the tracksuit with the pyjamas. So that’s the way I am. I am a club man, but a many club man.
“I decided in my career to have these adventures, go through different countries until I’d done what I call the grand slam of Italy, Spain and England. I didn’t stop. I wanted to do it and I did it with this passion.”
While wearing non-clubpyjamas, Mourinho has had plenty of time to reflect on life since Manchester United sacked him just under a year ago. “I always thought these 11 months were not a waste of time. I was able to think, to analyse, to prepare, and anticipate things.
You never lose your DNA, your identity, what you are. I had time to think about many things. I realise that during my career I made mistakes. I am not going to make the same mistakes, I am going to make new mistakes.
But he says he has come back stronger. “Not fitter, but stronger from an emotional point of view. I’m relaxed, I’m motivated, I’m ready and I think the players have felt that in these two days that I’m ready to support them.”
And he says he is now The Humble One. “I am humble enough to analyse my career, the problems and the solutions. The principle of the analysis was not to blame anyone else. When I had meetings with my assistants and the people that I thought about bringing with to work with me in this chapter, it was always based on the belief that there is nobody else to blame, nobody else to analyse. It is only about us.”
Finally he was asked if he had got his mojo back.
“I have to go to Google Translate to work out what mojo is. I can more or less feel what you mean. When I don’t win I cannot be happy and I cannot change that in my DNA. If you are happy to lose football matches, it’s difficult to be a winner in any moment of your career. That’s a basic principle.
But the emotional control, to keep the self esteem and confidence in yourself and show confidence to others and in those who work around you is very, very important as a principle.
So there you have it. Jose Mourinho after almost a year of self-analysis is back. Refreshed, respectful, humble — but still a winner.
Now his biggest test is whether he can turn Tottenham into winners, too.