Joe Cole has spoken out in support of Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho, saying that if it weren’t for Chelsea’s Antonio Conte, he would have been named manager of the year.
Former England international Cole also hit back at the manager’s critics, saying that his first season in charge at Old Trafford had been very successful.
“Not only do I think he will be a success, he’s already a success,” Cole told Goal. “I’ve seen ex-players criticise him, but he’s already a success there.”
He went on to say: “And when he wins the Europa League, I’ll go as far as to say that — after [Antonio] Conte — he’s probably the manager of the season, to get that group of players to win two trophies and get to the Champions League.”
The statement is perhaps surprising. Despite victory at Wembley in the EFL Cup Final this year, Mourinho’s Manchester United finished in a relatively unimpressive 6th position in the league.
In fact, it’s arguable that many would choose Mauricio Pochettino or even West Brom’s Tony Pulis as second choice for manager of the year over the Special One.
However, Cole believes that if United can beat Ajax in the Europa League final, then he can look past negative results and consider the season a positive one.
“Sure, they might finish fifth or sixth. But he’s gone so far deep in Europe that these games where he drew at home to Swansea and all that is difficult.
“If he would have not been in Europe he would have won that game for sure, and probably finished fourth anyway,” the former West Ham, Chelsea, Liverpool and Aston Villa midfielder went on to say.
Despite going on a 26-game unbeaten streak in the Premier League this year, United finished outside the Champions League places for a second successive season.
However, Cole, who played 56 times for England and currently turns out for MLS side Tampa Bay Rowdies, believes that criticism levelled at Mourinho over recent times has been unjustified.
“The criticism he’s gotten this year has been just ridiculous and unjust,” Cole said. “He’s already won a trophy.
“Let’s just say he’s gone deep in the Europa League and there’s probably a good chance he’s going to win, so that’s two trophies.”
Manchester United take on Ajax in the Europa League final at the Friends Arena in Stockholm tonight (March 24).