Charlton can't see Mourinho coming to Old Trafford and admits it's hard to compliment City
At 75, Sir Bobby Charlton’s passion for Manchester United and what is best for the club he adores still flames. As Alex Ferguson prepares to take his side to Manchester City for tomorrow’s first derby of the season, the gentleman of English football whose career remains the domestic game’s high-water mark leaves no doubt over his view of one possible heir to the Scot, Jose Mourinho.
Coming from Charlton, who is a United director and ambassador and was a kingmaker in Ferguson’s appointment during 1986, his take on Mourinho is intriguing in a week that began with Ferguson backing the Real Madrid manager’s ability to take charge of United, telling ITV4: “He can manage anywhere, absolutely.” For Charlton, who embodies the values of the club better than anyone, Mourinho’s antics last season do not befit a United manager.
One of the most uncomfortable entries on an ever-lengthening charge sheet was Mourinho’s gouging of the eye of Tito Vilanova, in the 2011 Spanish Super Cup.
“A United manager wouldn’t do that,” Charlton says. “Mourinho is a really good coach but that’s as far as I would go really. He’s the manager of Real Madrid and we expect to play them in the Champions League by the end of the season.”
When it is put to him that it is difficult to imagine a United manager being allowed to get away with some of Mourinho’s behaviour, Charlton says: “You are right. He pontificates too much for my liking. He’s a good manager, though.” But Ferguson admires Mourinho. “He doesn’t like him too much, though,” Charlton shoots back.
What none of the United congregation liked were last season’s derby performances. The aggregate score finished 7-1 to City, with Mancini’s team leaving Old Trafford in October having routed United 6-1, before winning a crucial encounter in late April with a Vincent Kompany header.
Charlton says: “The 6-1 didn’t upset me at all because I could see what was happening. Our defence made a mistake, two mistakes, and it was 2-0. They lost control and went forward trying to put it right. It’s a problem with City for us, physically, though. They are a strong, big team and that causes us problems.”
How were the aftershocks at the club following the 6-1 defeat? “We knew they were improving their team,” Charlton says. “The ownership meant that at least financially they were going to build a good side. How could they not do?”
Despite the United blood that courses through him, could the football man inside appreciate how City won the championship with the campaign’s final kick? “It’s very difficult to compliment City. But we are not stupid,” he says. “They won it. It doesn’t matter that it was right at the end of the game. We lost and it was a hard pill to swallow. Yes I have got over it but it took a while and it’s been tough.”
United again lead the league as Ferguson does what Ferguson does best: build a fresh side while keeping the present one competing. “He is unique. If I was going out of the trenches he is the one I would want beside me. Nobody else. He has something inside him.
“Every football person in this country wants to do what he will do and what he has done in the past. He is fantastic, he just loves it. On a match day the team sheet comes in and you think: ‘Oh, I didn’t expect that’. More often than not he has done something – or picked somebody – that you wouldn’t expect. Usually it works, too.”
The drive that won Charlton 106 England caps, the World Cup, the European Cup, the European footballer of the year award, three league titles and the FA Cup is now directed at the charity he founded in 2008, Find A Better Way.
Charlton’s greatest United team has Ferguson as the manager and Roy Keane at their centre. “There are certain players that are talismen and when they go on to a football field they take everybody with them,” he says.
“Roy Keane just had that thing. He could change the game with the timing of one tackle. I have played with a large number of good players and have played against many, but when you ask me which would I have liked to play with it’s Roy Keane I miss out there.”