WHEN Jose went haring down the touchline at Old Trafford in 2004, he was forging some pretty ordinary Porto players into an extraordinary Champions League-winning team.
At a combined cost of £660.8million, Mourinho now presides over the third-most-expensive squad the world has ever seen.
Of course, this season’s City are historically good.
But it’s not just Saint Pep who is making Mourinho look average.
At dressing-room and boardroom level, United are making it up as they go along.
While Alexis Sanchez may have been a statement signing, a warning shot across the bows of the good ship City, he wasn’t a player they particularly needed.
Going into January, the club told leading agents they wanted a left-back and a holding midfielder, adding that they would consider a world-class centre-back or right-back.
Instead, they ended up with a 29-year-old attacker on the highest wage — £505,000 a week — the Premier League has ever seen.
They threw in an extended contract for a manager failing to make significant progress.
A manager whose team were lucky not to be hammered by Spurs — but who picked the same side for United’s next away fixture.
One proviso of Mourinho agreeing to that extension, tying him down until 2020, was the guarantee of a holding midfielder and at least three new defenders arriving in the summer — when the value of United’s squad will be approaching £1billion.
So this is the grandest of building projects — but it has seemingly been undertaken without an architect’s plan.
United’s commercial department will trumpet the fact that Sanchez and Paul Pogba have sold more shirts than any other player in the Premier League this season.
They are becoming the English Galacticos, almost seeming to value celebrity over silverware.
But on the pitch, Sanchez’s arrival seems to be stunting the progress of Pogba, who ought to be central to everything United hope to achieve.
Although the Frenchman simply did not see enough of the ball to pull any strings at St James’ Park on Sunday.
Across the team there are similar stories.
Chris Smalling, one player who improved markedly under Louis van Gaal, now looks a liability — his partnership with Phil Jones is way off title-winning class.
And despite that gargantuan spend, it’s still Ashley Young as a makeshift left-back.
At the Etihad on April 7, there is every chance this bang-average United team will be forming a guard of honour to welcome City’s new champions before the Manchester derby — six weeks before the end of the Premier League season.
When United hired Mourinho, they must have thought they were recruiting the same charismatic team-builder who once shocked them with Porto.
But that was a very long time ago and this is a very different Mourinho.
Jaded, careworn, paranoid — and failing.
That’s nice in theory. But Arsenal will be up against three A-list sides in Atletico Madrid, Dortmund and Napoli.
Then plenty of others — AC Milan, RB Leipzig, Dynamo Kiev, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Villarreal, Lyon and Marseille — well capable of beating a Gunners team who are awful away from home.
So, will an absence of the Champions League for a second successive season instigate the meaningful mid-term review of Wenger’s £18million two-year deal we were promised?
You already know the answer to that.
EARLY impressions of covering the Olympics:
1 It’s really cold. Yep, we know it’s winter and it’s supposed to be cold, but these are the coldest Games ever.
2 Short-track speed-skating is as thrilling a live sporting spectacle as you could witness, but it’s also nuts.
3 Snowboarders are nuts. Boarding in these winds is utterly nuts.
4 Cross-country skiing is nuts but not as nuts as biathlon, which is gruelling cross-country skiing to get the ticker racing plus rifle shooting necessitating a low heart-rate.
5 There is nothing more nuts than ski jumping. When you’ve seen how huge those hills really are you’ll never scoff at Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards again.
IT WOULD be appreciated if Eddie Jones — on course for an historic third straight Six Nations title — could leave out the laughable attempts at mind games.
Before the Wales match, he might as well have had a sign on his forehead reading ‘MIND GAMES’, with an arrow pointing down at his gob.