Sunday 22 October 2017

Comment - Why Jose Mourinho's latest claim is spot on, even if he may not entirely believe it himself

Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Chelsea confirmed the inevitable when they were crowned as Premier League champions on Friday night, leaving the big names trailing in their wake to fight for the scraps in what will be noted as one of the most disappointing seasons in the recent history of England’s top flight.

Here is your Independent.ie review of a weekend that highlighted the incompetence of most of the chasing pack that have long since given up on knocking Chelsea from their perch.

WHY MOURINHO IS RIGHT TO DISMISS 'TOP FOUR TROPHY’

It was easy to be cynical about Jose Mourinho’s claim that he was only interested in trophies on a day when his Manchester United side lost their last chance to push for a top four finish in the Premier League, yet the latest comments from this serial winner should hit a nerve with all football fans.

If it had been suggested back in August that Mourinho would guide United to a sixth place finish in his first season as Old Trafford chief - one place worse than Louis van Gaal managed before his sacking by the Old Trafford club last May -  we might have been expecting to write obituaries for his failing career rather than giving credence to the 'alternative facts' thesis he has come up with in recent weeks.

Yet not for the first time, this inventive orator has come up with a more than plausible narrative to explain away what is now certain to be his worst season as a Premier League manager, with the EFL Cup he won in February the first of what he hopes will be a trophy double when his side take on Ajax in next week's Europa League final in Stockholm.

“We fight for titles and probably other clubs finishing in the top four, probably they would like to be in our position to try and fight for the title,” declared Mourinho after his side’s 2-1 defeat at Tottenham om Sunday.

Many were quick to suggest the comment was a jab at Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and his annual claim that a top four finish in the Premier League is as good as a trophy, yet was Mourinho right to claim winning trophies of any variety was more significant than finishing anywhere but first in the table? Of course he was.

When you started following whatever sport it may be that sets your pulse racing, you didn't lie awake at night dreaming off the prospect that one day in the future, they might just finish fourth in a major competition.

Let's face it, fourth place is not even considered worthy of the least valuable medal in an Olympics Games, yet in Premier League football, a top four finish has become the holy grail for Premier League clubs (and some fans), who have forgotten what sport should be all about.

The day when your team wins at Wembley or lifts a trophy on foreign shores are what you remember when you reflect on your supporting career, with the surge of excitement created by a big win far more thrilling than the prospect of a Champions League campaign that may or may not serve up the odd big win.

You follow a team for those great moments, the magic days you cherish and remember for decades to come. You live for those precious snap shots when a great goal is scored or a magic moment is produced by your team that confirmed they are winners.

Would Tottenham fans swap their magnificent second place finish in the Premier League this season for the thrill of seeing their team lift the EFL Cup and Europa League trophies? Of course they would.

Can Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola claim he has had a better season that his old foe Mourinho if he clinches a place in next season’s Champions League amid a generally miserable first season in England? Clearly not.

Winning should be all that matters at the highest levels of any sport and no football fan should care about the finances generated by Champions League football or the false perception that your team need to be in Europe’s elite competition to attract the best players.

As Paul Pogba as Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirmed when they joined Mourinho's United last summer, signing for a team playing Europa League football is not shameful if they pay cheque offered carries enough weight to soften the blow and consider this prospect when you ponder the latest talking point created by Mourinho.

So while Roy Keane may describe United's sixth place finish in the Premier League as 'embarrassing', Mourinho's pathetic title challenge and his tiresome groans about his injury crisis will forgotten if two trophies are residing in the Old Trafford trophy cabinet next week.

WHY KLOPP FACES A BIGGER SUMMER THAN ALL OF HIS RIVLALS

Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola have been among the biggest disappointments in the Premier League title race this season, yet the two men who were tipped to battle it out for top spot in their first season as the leaders of Manchester’s two big clubs have been given a year’s grace to confirm their class in their new jobs.

The same luxury may not be afforded to Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp if he fails to guide his team into next season’s Champions League, with the additional 10 months he has had in charge at Anfield ensuring his honeymoon period has long since ended.

So on a weekend when Arsenal piled the pressure on Klopp and his team as they cling on to a top four spot in the Premier League, he turned to a player whose misery under his watch over the last couple of seasons has been complete.

Daniel Sturridge paved the way for a vital victory against a limp West Ham side on Sunday, with the finishing power provided by the striker who looks destined to leave Liverpool this summer a reminder of what Klopp’s side have been lacking this season.

While Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane offer attacking potency when they are fit and firing, Liverpool need a finisher to slot into Klopp’s set-up to add a flourish to their fantasy.

So even if a victory against Middlesbrough next Sunday at Anfield will be hailed as the first tangible evidence of progress under Klopp, it will not entirely eradicate the sense of deflation after a less than convincing season from the German tactician and his thread bear squad.

Liverpool need to spend and spend big this summer if they are to be transformed from pretenders into contenders and adding finishing power to their attacking promise should be a priority.

INDEPENDENT.IE TEAM OF THE WEEK

Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea)

Kyle Naughton (Swansea)

Gary Cahill (Chelslea)

Victor Moses (Chelsea)

Victor Wanyama (Tottenham)

David Silva (Manchester City)

Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)

Harry Kane (Tottenham)

Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)

Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace)

Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)

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