The Andy Cole Column: Mourinho at United? A perfect match

Fired Up! Mourinho, in my view, is United's kind of man, and we like to spar with the best
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The Independent Football

As a Manchester United fan waiting for today's draw for the Champions League quarter-finals, I'd have to hope for one of the relatively less formidable sides – say CSKA Moscow – but the cliché of no easy games at this stage is a cliché because it's true.

As somebody who loves the thrill of the big occasion, we should be guaranteed at least one or two "Look who it is!" ties of epic proportions. Jose Mourinho's Inter could be drawn to come back to Old Trafford, where he first seared into our consciousness in Europe with that dash along the touchline when Costinha scored that goal as Porto beat United six years ago.

Or Mourinho could also get another shot at Arsenal. Or Lauren Blanc could be back at Old Trafford with his exciting Bordeaux team. Or Blanc could face other former teams of his in Inter or Barcelona. Or how about Bordeaux and their Moroccan striker Marouane Chamakh being sent to The Emirates, where Chamakh is reportedly heading this summer? Or a rematch of United and Barça? Mouth-watering.

The idea of Mourinho and United appeals because it would be a smashing tie, and because Mourinho, in my view, is United's kind of man, and we like to spar with the best.

Now, I wouldn't presume for a second to start predicting who United's next manager will be. The Boss (Sir Alex Ferguson) could still fancy another five years, in which case he'll get them. But when he does leave, I think Mourinho is among a tiny number who ticks the boxes as a candidate to replace him.

His team did superbly to eliminate Chelsea, by the way. All the pundits thought they would come and park the bus, but they subverted that assumption to play free-flowing football from the start. The interchange between the strikers and the runs behind took Chelsea by surprise, and Samuel Eto'o, Thiago Motta and Goran Pandev each had decent chances before Eto'o actually scored.

Like him or loathe him (I like him), Mourinho is a character. He's won titles in Portugal, England and Italy. He's a serial winner and that's the type of person that suits United. Personally, I think the Premier League has missed Mourinho and will be enhanced when he comes back as a Premier League manager, as I'm certain he will one day.

Chelsea's exit from Europe is not such good news for United because it leaves Chelsea to concentrate on the league. Roman Abramovich cannot be relishing yet another season without a decent trophy: league or European, that is.

On the subject of returning idols, it goes without saying that I wish my friend and former United team-mate David Beckham the swiftest and most complete recovery possible from his torn Achilles tendon. It was obvious from the pictures on the night the injury happened that Becks was devastated but I know him, and he will bounce back. He always has done, whatever the setback, sporting, professional or private.

I feel for him especially because he now won't go to that fourth World Cup. I'm absolutely certain that if he'd not got injured that Fabio Capello would have included him. He wouldn't necessarily have started games in South Africa but Capello is canny enough to know he would offer an option later in games, and that his deliveries could make that fraction of difference at an impasse.

Beckham was a fantastic servant for Manchester United, and he was a team-mate for the entirety of my own career at Old Trafford between 1995 and 2001. He's also been a fine player for England over the years. Yes, we know he's surrounded by a bit of circus these days, and there's always some razzamatazz or other going on around him. But I've always found him to be a good guy who above everything gets on with his job as a professional.

Whatever nonsense you might read about bosses being in thrall to his celebrity, his consistency on the pitch over years and year is what's made him so special to his managers at club and international level. His private life doesn't – and shouldn't come into it. That's down to him. Each of us to our own.

As for Becks' ability to recover from all manner of knocks, literal or metaphorical, I've never known anyone like him. I would think you probably can't go much lower professionally – in the public perception – than being sent off for your country at a World Cup and then being burned in effigy by idiots on your return, and demonised by millions.

I was his United team-mate at that stage, 1998. And how did Becks react? Quietly, without fuss, and proving himself with his performances, on the pitch, in a 1998-99 season that ended in our Treble.

Yes, an Achilles injury at his age is bad. But do I see Beckham coming back, playing on? Of course. It's as certain as some tasty Champions League quarter-finals.

The fee for Andy Cole's column is donated to Alder Hey hospital and sickle cell anaemia research. He works on charitable projects with the sport and media team at law firm Thomas Eggar