The first experience as head coach happens in SL Benfica in 2000 by the hand of João Vale e Azevedo, when Mourinho moved up from his role as assistant manager in FC Barcelona to replace manager Jupp Heynckes after the fourth week of the Primeira Liga, the Portuguese league. José Mourinho picked up, Carlos Mozer, former Benfica star to be his assistant.
Mourinho and Mozer proved a popular combination, enjoying a 3–0 win against fierce rivals Sporting in December. Their reign, however, appeared to be at risk after Benfica’s election turned against club president João Vale e Azevedo, and the newly-elected Manuel Vilarinho said that he would instate ex-Benfica player Toni as his new coach.Although Vilarinho had no intention of firing him immediately, Mourinho used the victory over Sporting to test the president’s loyalty and he asked for a contract extension. Vilarinho refused the demand and Mourinho resigned from his position immediately. He left the club on 5 December 2000 after just nine league games in charge.
JOSÉ MOURINHO – SL BENFICA
September to December (2000)
President: João Vale e Azevedo / Manuel Vilarinho
Assistant Coach: Carlos Mozer
Mourinho got a new position as manager in April 2001 with União de Leiria, whom he took to their highest-ever league finish of fifth place after joining the club with seven games left to be played. During his second season at União de Leiria, the team was on a run contesting places as high as third and fourth by January. After a 2–1 win against Paços de Ferreira on 27 January, the team was in third place, one point ahead of both Porto and Benfica and three points behind the top of the league table. Mourinho’s successes at Leiria did not go unrecognized and he caught the attention of larger Portuguese clubs as FC Porto and his chairman Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa.
JOSÉ MOURINHO – UNIÃO DE LEIRIA
2001 – 2002
President: João Bartolomeu
Assistant Coach: Vítor Pontes, Baltemar Brito e Rui Faria