Tuesday, 5 July 2016

PR Lessons: Manchester United 2016/2017 Management Changes

After months of flirting, Ed Woodward and the Glazer family in May, 2016 finally got into bed with the former Chelsea boss, who will manage across the city from former La Liga nemesis Pep Guardiola.

Louis van Gaal's turbulent two-year reign at Manchester United was brought to an end as FA Cup glory was unable to mask poor Premier League performances in terms of style and substance.

The former Chelsea manager signed a three-year deal at Old Trafford, with an option to stay at the club until at least 2020.

As Mourinho takes over at the Manchester club, he finds himself in what is a most unusual position for him. For the first time in his career he enters a new job with a lot to prove. For the first time in his career the curve of his fortunes is showing a steep decline. And for the first time too doubt has entered the equation.

For most of his career Mourinho has been like one of those cartoon characters who blithely carry on running even when they've gone over the cliff and journeyed into thin air. But lately he's started to look down and, feeling round with his feet, realise that he's bound by the same rules of sporting gravity as everyone else. If he plummets into the ravine at Old Trafford it will lead to the unravelling of a reputation once second to none. The Special One has an awful lot to lose if things go wrong at his new club. Failure will be regarded as proof that he has become yesterday's man.

You couldn't have imagined this happening just three years ago when Mourinho was named third best manager of all-time in a poll carried out by World Soccer magazine, behind Alex Ferguson and Rinus Michels. OK, these polls don't mean a great deal and are absurdly slanted towards the contemporary, 21 votes for Mourinho and 18 for Pep Guardiola when Udo Lattek (a European Cup, a Cup Winners' Cup, a UEFA Cup and eight Bundesligas) received one and Miguel Munoz (two European Cups and 10 La Ligas) none at all.

But this 2016/2017 management change at Manchester United have also come with some questions and lessons.

PR Team Knock

The Red Devil’s PR department has had one of their less glorious spells over the last few days.

Ibrahimovic’s Instagram message on Thursday, 30th of June beat them to the punch in announcing he was headed for Old Trafford, while on the following day a website gaffe saw new away kits advertised in the United online store with Mkhitaryan’s name on the back a full 24 hours before Dortmund admitted he had left them.

And that comes hot on the heels of the clumsy way they pushed aside Louis van Gaal for Mourinho. But as United fans take a look at their squad taking shape for 2016-17, few will care one jot about how things have made it into the public eye. Bailly was a good, solid addition.

Ibrahimovic is the eye-catching mouthpiece and totem attacker who will make people sit up and take notice of United again. Yet Mkhitaryan is the signing which most exemplifies their drive for success.

Ibrahimovic’s unveiling on that same Friday, 1st of July, was the big-name signing of the week, but Mkhitaryan’s capture is undoubtedly the big statement addition.

Behaviour & Reputation
There's no doubt that Jose Mourinho's reputation has taken a pummelling since August, with the Eva Carneiro affair, results slipping and his frequent paranoid outbursts not reflecting well on the Portuguese.

Given that, according to most reports, Mourinho didn't replace Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013 because there were concerns among the Old Trafford hierarchy about The Special One's behaviour and how it might affect a club like United, the fact that the club even considered him now suggests a marked shift in policy.

But with that history, you'd have to expect Ed Woodward to remind Mourinho from the outset that his previous behaviour won't be tolerated at United. For the first time in a long time, Jose is unlikely to be taking a job on his terms. There are only so many demands you can make in his position and, chastened a tad by the year's events; we could see a mellower Mourinho than ever.

Mourinho and his team will need to let their on-field actions do the talking and prove himself one again that he is still worthy of his self-acclaimed title of the "Special One".

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