While both Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho have enjoyed immense success in their careers, their approach towards achieving it can be narrated through their choice of assistant managers.
Ferguson was known for changing his right-hand men every now and then, and the reasoning was obvious; familiarity leads to stale ideas, and Ferguson always wanted to avoid that.
That was all the more vital given his extended tenure at Manchester United. He was able to establish three great eras partly down to his refreshing of assistant managers.
Brian Kidd oversaw the development of United’s Class of 92 during Ferguson’s first wave of success. Steve McClaren brought in various ideas, such as video analysis, sports psychology and foreign techniques. Mike Phelan was Ferguson’s mouthpiece in the years leading up to his retirement, and had his own impact on the squad.
Carlos Queiroz was the most well-known of his assistants, spending two stints at the club. He had a reputation for developing young talent, and his Portuguese contacts helped to bring in Ronaldo and Nani. He was deemed cautious, but still helped them develop a continental, passing game. Ferguson placed importance in his right-hand men to carry out his instructions while providing insight of their own, and it contributed to incredible consistency.
The ultimate right-hand man
Jose Mourinho is different. He’s a man who prefers to keep his inner workings within himself. He has had just the one assistant manager in his managerial career up to this point, but that will now change. Rui Faria and Mourinho have worked so closely for nearly two decades to the point that they are friends and brothers.
Mourinho stumbled across Faria in Barcelona when he himself was an assistant to Louis van Gaal (later to be replaced by Mourinho at United). An instant bond was formed, and Mourinho took him to Uniāo de Leiria in 2001.
From that point, they have been inseparable. From Leiria, to Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Chelsea again, and United, they have spent 17 years together.
If there is one person who knows Mourinho’s style, personality, and methodology more than anyone else, it’s Faria. Both men are Portuguese, passionate, and fiery, they’re both distant and calculative, and that common ground has been the blueprint for their collective success.
Faria’s extensive knowledge in fitness helped Mourinho greatly at Porto. He was the man putting in the hours for Mourinho.
As a result, they share a love for the dark arts, with Faria allegedly communicating with his boss following a stadium ban through under-hand tactics. He’s assumed numerous roles in his time, even acting as mediator following various managerial bust-ups involving his boss.
Their relationship between manager and assistant is much deeper than the norm. Faria has been a loyalist to his manager, sometimes sacrificing himself for the cause. He carries many characteristics from his boss, an unusual trait for an assistant, and over the years, he has proved himself to be the ultimate right-hand man.
After 17 years, people wondered when the working relationship would finally end. The question has now been answered – Faria will leave United after this season, and it’s a change with potentially major ramifications.
Mourinho himself faces many questions regarding the club and its future following a second season where success has been tricky to judge.
Amidst rumours of discontent, he has to find a way of pushing Manchester City closer next season. Doing so without his trusted confidante will add to the challenge.
He has admitted he will find it difficult to work without his friend. While the rest of his back-room staff remain in place, it is a chance for Mourinho to directly freshen up his side. It’s a decision not of his own choosing, but it represents a chance to take a leaf from Ferguson’s book.
The identity of the new assistant will not be known for some time, but there are plenty of names rumoured. Carlos Queiroz could work under his compatriot, while the U-18 coach Kieran McKenna might be in the frame too. Rene Meulensteen, once under Ferguson, could also make a return.
The fan favourite would be the freshly retired Michael Carrick. While he will join the coaching staff, he could be elevated into the assistant role like Ryan Giggs. Carrick holds tremendous respect and influence at United. His rousing half-time speech in the City derby will no doubt play on Mourinho’s mind.
Many fans are hoping a new assistant could encourage Mourinho to play a more attacking game in the coming season.
The identity shouldn’t matter, but with Mourinho, the assistant has always had a vital role. That Faria is now gone makes his replacement all the more intriguing. The scope of influence that his successor has remains to be seen, but it would be a smart choice to boost public relations by picking someone like Carrick, a figure whom the fanbase trusts. Mourinho has done well trophy-wise in his two years, but the playing style still sticks out like a sore thumb. It has to be remedied.
And what next for Faria? Mourinho has talked him up to be a future manager in the future, and this appears to be the natural progression.
While he has no experience on his own, 17 years under Jose Mourinho should count for a lot. There are plenty of vacancies, even in England right now. The Arsenal hot seat is vacant, for example, while Chelsea’s could be soon.
Faria desires to take a break at the moment, so that should rule out Arsenal. But it is likely that there will be a place at a good side for Faria to earn his managerial chops.
After 25 trophies, the FA Cup final versus Chelsea could be No 26, and the last – for now – between Mourinho and Faria. In a summer of on-field changes, there will be a significant change off-field as well. It feels like the end of an era.
The future holds plenty of intrigue. How will Mourinho adapt to a new assistant? Can Faria can carve a niche for himself away from his boss? Only time will tell.