Mourinho to Roma: What to expect as 'Special One' returns to Serie A

By Sports Desk May 04, 2021

Jose Mourinho has quickly returned to work following his Tottenham departure last month.

Roma confirmed on Tuesday the 'Special One' would be taking over as their coach from the start of next season, replacing Paulo Fonseca.

For Mourinho, it means a return to a familiar league and some familiar faces – both within the Giallorossi dressing room and among the opposition.

Using Opta data, we take a look at what the Eternal City might be able to expect from Mourinho.

Mourinho may suit Smalling

Mourinho is likely to be more warmly welcomed by one former Manchester United man than another in the Roma team.

Centre-back Chris Smalling was a regular when fit under the Portuguese at Old Trafford.

Despite dealing with a number of issues during Mourinho's tenure, only David de Gea (113) and Paul Pogba (100) made more starts than Smalling's 91 in all competitions.

The former England defender led all United players in blocks (91), clearances (546) and aerial duels won (346) over this time.

United kept clean sheets in 36 of Smalling's 100 outings and he has continued this form in Italy to establish himself as Roma's main man at the back and someone Mourinho will surely rely on.

On the other hand, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was one of Mourinho's first signings in Manchester but struggled to convince the manager.

Although the midfielder contributed 13 goals, 10 assists and 96 key passes across 63 matches, he was used as a makeweight in the ill-fated Alexis Sanchez transfer in January 2018.

He will hope to get a second chance having joined Roma following a similarly unsuccessful stint with Arsenal.

War with San Siro successor

This is Mourinho's second job in Serie A after a hugely successful stretch at Inter where he won the treble. Only last weekend did the Nerazzurri claim the Scudetto for the first time since that triumph.

Mourinho's old rival Antonio Conte was the man to oversee this latest success, however, and there could well be fireworks when they go head to head again next season.

Conte was the next full-time Chelsea coach after Mourinho's second Stamford Bridge stay ended with a feeble title defence in 2015-16.

There was a rivalry then between the pair in the Premier League, the highlights including Mourinho describing Conte as "a clown on the touchline" before the current Inter boss returned fire: "I consider him a little man, I consider him a man with a very low profile."

Conte, a champion again with Inter, will be confident he can get the better of the Roma coach in 2021-22, though.

Mourinho has beaten Conte sides only twice in seven attempts, losing four times – including in their most recent meeting, an FA Cup final win for the Italian in 2018.

Jose back to his best?

That Inter stretch is widely remembered as Mourinho's peak – or at least his second peak.

He won as many titles in two seasons (two) as he has in 11 years since, while 2009-10 also brought his second and most recent Champions League crown.

Mourinho's win rate of 62.0 per cent was actually down on his prior two roles at Porto (69.6) and Chelsea (66.9) and his subsequent posting at Real Madrid (71.9).

But those lofty San Siro standards are some way clear of the level Mourinho has been operating at in recent seasons.

He won only 51.2 per cent of his matches at Tottenham and left without lifting a single trophy, albeit he was sacked just days before the EFL Cup final.

If Mourinho is to improve on that return with Roma, who are seventh in Serie A at present, he will have some work to do.

But the former Inter favourite has previously proven himself up to the task in Italy.

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