The Cathal Dervan Column Managers Who Know How to Win

The Inter Milan manager Jose Mourinho and his Manchester United counterpart Alex Ferguson engaged in some wonderful dialogue ahead of their Champions League encounter in Italy on Tuesday night as Irish fans digested the latest Roy Keane outburst. Not so long ago Fergie and the Special One were the best of enemies in the chase for the Premier League title, a chase they have dominated for the past four years. Ferguson's United have won the last two Premiership crowns, Chelsea's Mourinho won the two before that, so between them they have dominated club football in England in the most recent past. It is no coincidence, as both Ferguson and Mourinho have claimed this week, that the arrival of the Portuguese coach at Stamford Bridge rejuvenated Fergie as the greatest manager of his generation. Having grown fed up of his battle of wits with Arsenal's Arsene Wenger, the boss of the last team other than United or Chelsea to win the league, Ferguson was waiting for something new to challenge his authority in 2004. Mourinho's arrival, in a blaze of glory after winning the Champions League with Porto, was just what Fergie was waiting for. Sure, he lost the next two League crowns to the manager who branded himself a Special One, but Fergie soon became a man on a mission once again. By May 2007, when the Reds secured the title, Ferguson was back as top dog in English football and Mourinho's reign at Chelsea was beginning to slide. Since then United have won another championship and will win this season's trophy as well, while Chelsea have been through Mourinho, Grant, Scolari and now Hiddink as manager. That partly explains why football fans this side of the Atlantic are relishing the renewal of battle and new vows of modesty from both the Scot and the Portuguese boss as they clash in the first knock-out round of this season's Champions League. To see Ferguson and Mourinho do battle again will be something special at a time when the Premier League has become stale thanks to United's dominance and the demise of Liverpool Chelsea and Arsenal. If the football offered in the next fortnight by Inter and the Reds is as good as the quotes then we are in for a treat, but unfortunately great quotes can often hide many things in modern day football. This past weekend we have been able to chew on many more great quotes from the former Sunderland manager and Ireland and United captain Keane in another love-in with The Irish Times. Keane, as he has done many times in his post-Saipan past, has been quick to point fingers in many directions bar his own in his first full interview since he resigned as Sunderland boss after a difference of opinion with the club's new American owner Ellis Short. While Keane left Sunderland in a better position than he found them, there was much in Saturday's interview that will put prospective employers off taking Roy up on his offer to return to management in the near future. After all, as you will read elsewhere on these pages, he is not keen on taking calls from his boss, signs players he doesn't believe in, doesn't turn up at training every day and didn't feel it worth his while to live in Sunderland while he was manager there. Not the sort of attitudes you will find in the Mourinho or Ferguson camps over the next fortnight! Maybe that's why they've won the last four league titles in England.

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