Mourinho's United task looks doomed to failure
Published 26/10/2016 | 02:30
Jose Mourinho has always liked to play with fire. His tactics were invariably to target the opposition's strength and pour through whatever gap he could prise open, hammering the hammer, using whatever means necessary.
He fought a permanent propaganda war and had many victories along the way. For a long time it worked to varying degrees. Some victories were more complete than others.
It's 11 years ago this week that he labelled Arsene Wenger a voyeur and seized power in that relationship, turning Wenger into part caricature, constantly begging comparisons with the younger, more successful Mourinho.
Here's Wenger with a zip. Here's Wenger trying to buy a striker, or a defender, or a goalkeeper. Here's Wenger with another FA Cup. Here's Jose with his good suits and expensive overcoat and his expensive striker/keeper/defender combo. Here's Jose with a Champions League or League medal to give away to some urchin.
It was the most easily defined example of Mourinho's hypnotic magnetism, the type of thing his players would write long homoerotic passages about.
His teams had that perfect mix of physicality, cheating, counter-attack or possession as required and self-confidence so they realistically believed they'd win any game.
Somehow in the off season at Chelsea in the summer of 2015 his spell broke, his magic dissipated and the power slipped from him.
Now we are all voyeurs when it comes to Jose. We are all watching. Tonight at Old Trafford we'll all be watching Manchester City and Pep bring it to Jose in the League Cup.
There was a pre-game fatigue of Jose stories ahead of the Chelsea Return last weekend but suddenly the collapse is so stark that it's impossible now to turn away.
This is an all-time managerial great hitting rock bottom. We don't even have to wait for the box-set to get the director's narration either - Jose is talking after every game, providing us with a version of his own internal monologue as we go.
It's good tv folks. The football is not good tv, admittedly, but that's secondary when we're watching one of the game's big beasts finish up.
The notion that Mourinho was on the way out or down seemed fantastical as recently as May 2015 but here we are watching the full stop fast approaching.
Many managers burn brightly for a period and flower a second time in different circumstances but few manage it as often as Mourinho has.
It's a footballing miracle that he made it this far and the odds, regardless of the money spent, are not historically in his favour. If he turns this around, it'll be better than anything he did at Chelsea.
His best hope is that United allow him the clear-out he'll crave after the humiliation of Stamford Bridge. It's one last piece of good fortune that for now United need him as much as he needs them.