What if Jose Mourinho joined Newcastle after Tim Howard stopped Porto?
Our What If series rolls on as we create a few heroics by a Man Utd 'keeper and see how it could have changed the career path of one of the world's most famous managers....
By Mark Crellin
Last Updated: 28/05/20 5:09pm
Jose Mourinho has managed the biggest clubs on the planet. How things could have been so different if a giant pair of American hands hadn't made a clanger on a stunning night of drama at Old Trafford in 2004.
Who'd have thought goalkeeper Tim Howard could have had such an impact with his actions for Manchester United 16 years ago on March 9.
What actually happened…
It was stoppage time and a Paul Scholes header looked to be enough for a 2-2 aggregate win over Porto and an eighth Champions League quarter-final in a row for United. The disallowed goal by Scholes before half-time was almost forgotten.
There were seconds left and Porto forward Benni McCarthy curled a hopeful free-kick to the top right corner of the goal.
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Howard, who went on to play 354 Premier League matches for Everton, was no slouch in goal. He had options. Tip the ball over or around the post? Catch it or head away? Maybe a Rene Higuita-style 'Scorpion Kick'?
He opted for palming the ball to Francisco Costinha, who scored the goal that sent coach Mourinho and his trench coat charging down the touchline. Porto went on to lift the Champions League trophy 10 weeks later.
It earned the Portuguese coach a job at Chelsea (the first of two stints at Stamford Bridge), plus Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Manchester United and now Tottenham.
What if Howard had dealt with the free-kick, Porto lost and Mourinho didn't join Chelsea? Here's what could have happened...
Forget 'The Special One' and say hello to the 'Geordie One'!
Mourinho had emulated his mentor Sir Bobby Robson by going to Porto - and 2004 was the perfect time for him to head to Tyneside.
The Magpies had plateaued somewhat under Robson, finishing fourth, third and fifth in successive seasons - but with the former England boss given a boardroom role, things quickly improved having recommended hiring his protégé.
Newcastle already had a strong squad, led by Premier League all-time leading scorer Alan Shearer, supplemented by French maestro Laurent Robert, with Gary Speed and Jermaine Jenas in midfield and Shay Given a rock in goal.
Add in some shrewd Mourinho signings from Porto in the shape of Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho, with Michael Essien arriving from Lyon - and it really was 'Howay the lads'!
With Arsenal on the wane, Man Utd unpredictable and Chelsea struggling, it's hard to envisage any other outcome for the 2005-6 campaign than Shearer lifting Newcastle's first top division title since 1927, before heading into glorious retirement after FA Cup glory at Wembley.
For Jose, further silverware, charity singles with Gazza and public spats with Arsene Wenger soon followed!
But the wobbles began when Mourinho was unable to keep Newcastle in title contention without the goals of Shearer.
And the manager left in 2008 wanting "new challenges", leaving red-faced Tyneside town planners to rethink their proposal to rebrand the famous statue as the Jose of the North.
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Mourinho wasn't out of work for long though, picking up the reins in October 2008 at Manchester City - another team with new cash and desperate to join the European elite.
With Jose running the ship, City didn't need any last-gasp Sergio Aguero magic to secure their first-ever Premier League crown.
They would have long since wrapped up a third straight title and would go on to quickly end their Champions League hoodoo.
On the flip side, no second Jose stint at Stamford Bridge means an overhaul in personnel. Who knows, Frank Lampard and the Blues might even still have a forward line of Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah and Romelu Lukaku.
2004 Champions League winners are…
Back to the start of this story and the 2004 Champions League. With Porto out, who goes on to lift the trophy in Gelsenkirchen?
Manchester United fans will no doubt be clamouring for the honours but with Eric Djemba-Djemba and Kleberson ruling the midfield, maybe we should look to the beaten finalists?
Monaco were useful but they were soundly beaten 3-0 by Jose's Porto boys in the final, suggesting a team from the other side of the draw should be considered.
Look no further than the squad who beat Juventus home and away in the round of 16, came back from a 4-1 first leg defeat to beat holders AC Milan in the last eight, and then give Porto a mighty battle before losing 1-0 on aggregate in the semi - with just a penalty between them.
It's Deportivo La Coruna.
It has been a tough time for Depor of late (currently in La Liga 2), but just to add to your woes Deportivo fans, if it wasn't for one small goalkeeping error, it seems like you would have won the Champions League in 2004!
Look out for our next What If and how some very famous English studs finally ended 30 years of hurt.