Everything we do leads to one or many consequences.
This is goal-setting 101 with Jose Mourinho, the Cursed One.
The objective is to break the three-year curse.
So far, Mister Mourinho appears to make decisions that only consider the short-term consequences. He has no grasp of the long-term consequences or signs of a vision.
It is clear that a pattern has emerged and he is cursed. Fabio Capello once spoke about the consequence of Mr. Mourinho’s approach and explained that: “Mourinho burns out players after a year and a half, at most two years.”
With his players burnt out. Rest and a passive voice are needed to recharge and refocus on team objectives.
Enter Avram Grant, Carlo Ancelotti, Zinedine Zidane, and Antonio Conte.
They seem to have benefitted greatly from teams managed by Jose Mourinho since they won league titles and Champions League titles after his departure.
The question remains. Could these titles potentially belong to Mr Mourinho?
The answer is affirmative – Yes! But Jose Mourinho would have had to abandon his strength. He is a strategist, which means that his objectives are immediate or in the short-term only.
He must find balance between strategist and visionary.
Visionaries include Jurgen Klopp, Arsene Wenger, and Mauricio Pochettino.
There is one manager that has found a balance between these two worlds – Pep Guardiola.
Mister Guardiola has won everywhere. He has some enemies (e.g., Zlatan Ibrahimovich, Yaya Toure) but there are few of them compared to Jose Mourinho.
Oddly, Mr. Mourinho strikes a balance between visionary and strategist in the first year of managing a club. He wants more in terms of quality from each player, trophies, and investments from the club. But he expects these things to arrive later, which lessens any sense of urgency, meaning he displays a passive voice. With less urgency to attain short-term objectives, the players feel the freedom to express themselves. They feel a sense of control that is not challenged by their manager.
Where does the urgency come from?
Mister Mourinho challenges his players to provoke a reaction, which works for players that lack aggression in their movements and urgency in their decisions. At one point, the strategy worked nicely for even Paul Pogba.
After repeatedly being challenged or feeling the pressure from a manager, there are physiological reactions that become detrimental to a player’s movements and their decisions.
Muscle tension can add aggression to their movements but too much muscle tension can also hinder the timing of their movement, activating muscles too early or those that are unnecessary for the execution of a skill (Gould & Tuffey, 1996).
The player’s self-talk can be about impressing the manager or gaining more trust from the manager, which leads to urgent decision making. Too much self-talk about the manager’s pressure creates an obsession that occupies the player’s self-talk meaning that the player is no longer focused on the present or thinking clearly about each moment on the pitch.
To offset the pressure, the opportunity exists to build social cohesion. Social cohesion can be described as “a cohesive society that works towards the well-being of all its members, fights exclusion and marginalisation, creates a sense of belonging, promotes trust, and offers its members the opportunity of upward mobility” (OECD, 2011).
In essence, rather than marginalise his players (e.g., Martial, Pogba, Bailly), he needed to bring them closer to him.
Some players need the friendship so that they can be afforded time and a way to internalise the short-term objectives and “buy in”, especially players that do not value the team’s objectives. These players are typically younger, trying to be consistent, and in search of a greater contract (Battochio, Schinke, Battochio, Halliwell, & Tenenbaum, 2009). Manchester United F.C. has a roster that is filled with these players.
These players must be allowed to struggle. When they struggle, the debriefing period following each match becomes critical to them having an adaptive view of the match that facilitates learning.
Who know more about the game than Mister Mourinho?
If players are marginalized or excluded, they will remain distant. For them to move away from the margins, Mr. Mourinho must strike a balance that that is mindful of a vision and includes social cohesion.
A cohesive balance will provide him with opportunities to utilise the guided discovery, his preferred teaching method that has also become prominent with today’s generation of athletes.
It is his only pathway to escaping the three-year curse.
Battochio, R. C., Schinke, R. J., Battochio, D. L., Halliwell, W., & Tenenbaum, G. (2010). The adaptation process of National Hockey League players. Journal of clinical sport psychology, 4(4), 282-301.
Gould, D., & Tuffey, S. (1996). Zones of optimal functioning research: A review and critique. Anxiety, stress, and coping, 9(1), 53-68.
OECD. 2011. Perspectives on Global Development 2012, Perspectives on Global Development. OECD Publishing.
Image: By Aleksandr Osipov from Ukraine – José Mourinho / Жозе Моуринью, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45105917