Jose Mourinho did not mind upsetting the apple cart after he arrived at Chelsea in 2004.
Although Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho developed a healthy respect for one another, their relationship got off to a rocky start.
Their first meeting came in the Champions League last-16 in February/March 2004 when Mourinho’s Porto knocked Fergie’s Manchester United out of Europe.
After the first leg in Porto, which the home side won 2-1, Ferguson confronted Mourinho in the tunnel having been infuriated by Porto goalkeeper Vitor Baia’s part in Roy Keane‘s red card.
Ferguson initially felt as though the goalkeeper had made the most of it (although he later came to realise that Keane was correctly dismissed after leaving his studs on Baia’s back as he jumped over the goalkeeper).
When asked about Ferguson’s angry reaction, Mourinho offered the following barb:
“I understand why he is a bit emotional. You would be sad if your team gets as clearly dominated by opponents who have been built on 10 percent of the budget.”
Porto earned a 1-1 draw in the return leg at Old Trafford, which famously sent Mourinho marching ecstatically down the touchline.
Mourinho ultimately led Porto to Champions League glory that season, but while his time as their manager came to an end, his rivalry with Ferguson was only getting started.
Fresh off lifting the most coveted trophy in European football, Mourinho joined Chelsea ahead of the 2004/05 season.
‘I’m a Special One’
His first press conference at Stamford Bridge was legendary, anointing himself as a ‘Special One’.
Given he was now Chelsea manager and one of Ferguson’s direct rivals, the United manager watched Mourinho’s brash introduction with a furrowed brow.
“‘What a cheeky young sod,’ I thought as I watched him entertain the press with richly quotable material,” Ferguson wrote in his autobiography.
“An internal voice told me: New kid on the block. Young. No point in discussing him. No point in taking him on. But he’s got the intelligence, the confidence to deal with the Chelsea job.”
Of course, while Mourinho was indeed arrogant, he also oozed charisma, and crucially, backed up his words with results on the pitch.
In the opening game of the 2004/05 season, he led Chelsea to a 1-0 win over Ferguson’s United at Stamford Bridge. He then proceeded to skate gloriously through his debut season in England, guiding Chelsea to their first title in 50 years by finishing 12 points ahead of Arsenal.
Like Arsene Wenger before him, Mourinho had earned Ferguson’s respect, and of course turned out to be much more than a ‘cheeky young sod’.