For most managers nearing their Manchester United Premier League debut, it would be easy to talk about “hope” and “transition”.
It would be easy to try and temper expectation and dodge the inevitable questions of, “will you win the Premier League”.
But Jose Mourinho is not like most other managers.
“We are not here to have fun or to enjoy the sunny weather, we are here to work and give everything for the club,” he said at his pre-match press conference.
“Man United has to say on day one that we want to win the title.
“Many more think the same way as us but they’re afraid to say it and prefer to play a defensive game in words.
“That’s not our way. I don’t think that’s Manchester United. I think Manchester United have to say we want to win the title.”
Under Sir Alex Ferguson, so often the difference between his teams and the teams he conquered on the way to league title after league title was not necessarily in the quality of the team on paper, but rather the confidence exuded from them whenever they stepped out onto the pitch.
The Scotsman obviously worked with some tremendous players, but ingrained in all of them was a deep desire to win and never come off second best. When they did lose, it almost always fuelled an even stronger response.
Ferguson’s United stepped out expecting to win, knowing that anything less was more often than not unacceptable and now, finally, United have a manager who is willing to lay down that same authority and project that confidence off the park for them.
It is a far cry from his two predecessors.
“The transition from Everton to United has been difficult at times as I have hard decisions to make,” David Moyes, Ferguson’s successor said as the days counted down on his first – and only – season as United manager.
“I know it won’t always be easy, but I just hope we can all work together. My sole goal is to be successful and have a winning team. I hope that over the years we can have plenty of success.”
And days later: “There’s no doubt we are in a transitional period at the club – most people recognise that when a new manager joins – but I’m hoping that it’s going to go smoothly and that there won’t be too many bumps along the way.”
United finished seventh at the end of that season.
Louis van Gaal eventually replaced Moyes following a short interim stint from the now departed Ryan Giggs and even
after an undefeated pre-season, the Dutchman was keen to temper expectation.
“Old Trafford was fantastic. I come on the pitch and they are shouting and screaming your name,” Van Gaal told the press after a 2-1 win over Valencia in the last pre-season friendly before United kicked off their 2014-15 season against Swansea City.
“It is also a big pressure as they expect a lot and you cannot change everything in three or four weeks.
“The players cannot change either so we have to wait and see and develop and we need time.
“But we have won every game until now and that is fantastic when you see our opponents so we have great confidence for Swansea City.”
United went on to lose that game 2-1 and endured one of their worst starts to a season, eventually recovering to finish fourth, before last season’s fifth place Premier League finish which cost the Dutchman his job.
But while Van Gaal and Moyes differed in footballing philosophy, they were similar in their inability to handle and deliver on the expectation at Old Trafford.
Both hoped for success, obviously, but seemingly only on the condition of time.
On the other hand, Mourinho just wants success. His ambition and drive is contagious and – just like that of Ferguson – could prove a telling factor in a Premier League that is getting harder and harder to win.
He of course has to go and deliver on that and he has laid down a significant ambition for the upcoming season at the risk of looking the fool if United does not deliver.
But he is better to swing and miss, then promise nothing and not deliver anyway.