Jose Mourinho hasn't actually been confirmed as Manchester United manager just yet, but the media is getting a jump start on all his upcoming transfer dealings already. This is of course nothing new or surprising — we've seen the same thing happen when he was coming back to Chelsea three years ago, and we've been seeing the same thing with Antonio Conte and all his connections in Italy — but the speed at which these sorts of stories are generated never ceases to amaze. Most of these things tend to turn out absolute nonsense of course, but some are pretty funny, others are intriguing, while some are even half-way plausible.
Perhaps the most plausible of all is the £200m "war-chest" that United will provide The
Special Happy Unnamed-as-yet One. They're swimming in money, so they might as well spend it, if for no other reason than as a status symbol.
Slightly less plausible are the stories of Mourinho and a certain Juan Mata working out their differences that resulted in the latter's sale to Manchester United in the first place. When Mourinho returned to Chelsea in 2013, Mata was almost immediately earmarked as a potential casualty. "Just not a Mourinho-type player," rang the headlines, whatever that may have meant. The then back-to-back Chelsea Player of the Year lasted six months — six months more than the sensationalist headlines claimed — but as a clear fourth choice or even worse, he pressed the eject button in January. It's unclear what would be the difference that would make this footballing relationship work out this time around (their personal relationship seemed to be amicable throughout their time together at Chelsea, but that's hardly a factor).
It would indeed be intriguing if Mata were to become available. Chelsea would no doubt be at the top of the list of clubs immediately linked, but would Mata fit into Conte's plans? That's not exactly obvious either, but something to watch for in the future.
More immediate, but even less plausible could be a transfer involving Nemanja Matic. One of the primary players responsible for Chelsea's horrendous season reunited with the manager who was sacked as a result six months ago? Mourinho obviously likes to work with people he knows and with whom he's had success together, but I could see him try to poach many others from Chelsea (Costa? Fabregas? Ivanovic?) before opting for the once dominant midfield general. But if he wants to send a significant chunk of the £200m towards our way, we could be looking at an interesting decision over the fate of the 27-year-old, who was clearly unhappy (well, at least as much as his emotionless, quiet, shy nature in public allows for) with not being an automatic first choice in the second half of the season.
Not going to click on the link; instead will assume United have bid £200 million for Nemanja Matic. https://t.co/uSvtrCkHTU— Graham MacAree (@MacAree) May 23, 2016
There are others targets on Mourinho's supposed list, most of whom will sound familiar. John Stones, Alvaro Morata, Andre Gomes, Mauro Icardi, and Ezequiel Garay have all been linked with Chelsea at one time or another over the past few years. A new name on the list is Joao Mario, who's risen to prominence thanks to Sporting Lisbon's title-challenge in Portugal. The 23-year-old midfielder has been linked with Chelsea (and Liverpool) as well, while international teammate Jose Fonte is urging him to choose Southampton instead.
"I think he should go to Southampton. He is a great player with great quality [...] quality enough for Manchester United or Chelsea, anyway. I would give everything for him to come to Southampton. We'll see."
-Jose Fonte; source: Mais Futebol via Google Translate
We'll see. The tagline of Silly Season. And now with Mourinho back in the mix, the box office is open and ready for business.