Manchester United on Friday anointed Jose Mourinho as their third new manager in less than three years in their bid to reinstate the club as a title-winning force in England and Europe.
After three days of talks, Mourinho agreed a three-year contract on a bumper salary reportedly worth more than $20 million (19.5 million euros) a year.
But the 53-year-old Portuguese supercoach, who has 22 honours to his name, said it was the “mystique” of United that drew him to the challenge of reviving one the world’s biggest football clubs.
The Red Devils need dragging out of the doldrums after first David Moyes and then Louis van Gaal failed to emulate the title-laden glory years under Alex Ferguson, who retired in 2013.
“To become Manchester United manager is a special honour in the game,” Mourinho said in a club statement.
“It is a club known and admired throughout the world. There is a mystique and a romance about it which no other club can match.
“I have always felt an affinity with Old Trafford; it has hosted some important memories for me in my career and I have always enjoyed a rapport with the United fans.
“I’m looking forward to being their manager and enjoying their magnificent support in the coming years.”
Mourinho seemed destined to manage United ever since his Porto side eliminated Ferguson’s men en route to winning the 2004 Champions League.
He thought his time had come when Ferguson retired, but concerns over his volatile personality prompted United to turn to the more reserved Moyes instead.
But with that move proving a disaster and Van Gaal faring little better, United’s powerbrokers sacked the Dutchman on Monday and decided at last to take a chance on Mourinho, despite his turbulent reputation.
– Chelsea acrimony –
“Jose is quite simply the best manager in the game today,” said United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.
“He has won trophies and inspired players in countries across Europe and, of course, he knows the Premier League very well, having won three titles here.”
Mourinho has won league titles and cups in four countries with Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. He won the Champions League for a second time with Inter in 2010.
Mourinho was sacked by Chelsea in December after a disastrous start to the season that saw the defending champions hovering near the relegation zone amid acrimony between the manager and his players and staff.
Before the new season begins, Mourinho will have to face the fall-out from his second spell at Stamford Bridge.
Former Blues doctor Eva Carneiro is claiming constructive dismissal in a case against Chelsea and has a separate personal legal action against Mourinho for alleged victimisation and discrimination.
The employment tribunal, which could take seven to 10 days, will be heard in public between June 6 and 24 unless a settlement is reached first.
The Red Devils’ statement on Mourinho’s appointment did not mention the future of club stalwart Ryan Giggs, who has spent nearly three decades at Old Trafford as a player and then a coach.
The 42-year-old was Van Gaal’s deputy and had been seen as a potential successor to the Dutchman but was overlooked in favour of Mourinho.
The Portuguese is expected to take his long-term backroom staff with him to Old Trafford.
– Mourinho a ‘wounded animal’ –
Mourinho will hope to make significant improvements to an unbalanced and often lacklustre United squad before the new season begins in August.
Media reports said he will have a £200 million ($293m, 262m euros) fund to bring in fresh faces, with former Paris Saint-Germain forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Everton defender John Stones reportedly on his wish list.
The new season could become a battle royale between Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, the incoming boss of bitter rivals Manchester City.
When Mourinho was in charge of Real Madrid and Guardiola running their sworn enemy Barcelona, the Portuguese relished taking a swipe at the Spaniard.
However, Mourinho won just three of their 16 meetings.
City finished last season in fourth place ahead of fifth-placed United on goal difference, keeping the Red Devils from qualifying for the lucrative Champions League.
The failure to join Europe’s elite next season ultimately cost Van Gaal his job, despite winning the FA Cup in his last game in charge.
Former United defender Rio Ferdinand said Mourinho needed to instil a winning mentality back into the club.
“This is Jose Mourinho’s most exciting and most challenging job yet,” the former England captain said.
After Chelsea, “this winner is now a wounded animal which makes him such a mouthwatering appointment.
“Mourinho’s huge personality is made for this great club.”