Sunday 22 October 2017

Comment: Why Mourinho is in danger of losing another dressing room and someone needs to tell Wenger his time is up

Moody Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho continues to snipe at his players in public. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Moody Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho continues to snipe at his players in public. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

The Premier League ‘title race’ has been a little too one-sided in Chelsea’s favour throughout the second half of the season to generate genuine excitement, but there was plenty of intrigue in the latest round of Premier League fixtures in a hectic Sunday of action.

MOURINHO LEAVING HIMSELF OPEN TO LOSING ANOTHER DRESSING ROOM

As Jose Mourinho found to his cost at Chelsea last season, humiliating your own players in public is a dangerous game and yet it is clear that he has not learned his lesson from that chastening experience as he edges towards the end of his first season as Manchester United manager.

Mourinho’s eagerness to taunt his players in his press briefings over their fitness levels, attitude or lack of courage makes for great copy for the media, but it also throws up the prospect of the collective United squad turning against him and siding with their team-mates in a battle of wills that the manager would not win.

When Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and the rest of his Chelsea pals decided they would down tools and fail to perform in a bid to get rid of Mourinho - after plenty of media snipes in their direction from their manager - the tactician who didn’t know how it felt to be disobeyed suddenly found himself without allies in a war he could not win.

So it is somewhat surprising that the trauma of his final months at Chelsea have not taught Mourinho some lessons, with the need to keep all players in his dressing room on side and not just those who are your favourites for that week vital to your hopes of long-term success in any top job.

Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Luke Shaw were popular members of the United dressing room long before Mourinho arrived, so when the manager accuses the trio of not playing through the pain barrier amid the club's current injury crisis, everyone appreciates that Mourinho is, effectively, questioning their professionalism.

Mourinho has been persistently encouraging Smalling and Jones to come back quicker than expected from their injuries for the good of the team, while Shaw has been taunted by Mourinho more than once this season for his bad attitude and his lack of fighting spirit.

The United boss was up to his old tricks before and after the 1-1 draw against Swansea on Sunday, with dressing room harmony at risk once again as Mourinho embarks on his latest crusade against his own.

Throw in his somewhat brutal exile of Bastian Schweinsteiger from his squad in the first half of this season, his snipes at Anthony Martial in recent weeks and the depressing mood swings that are part of his make-up and you have a character who is increasingly hard to like.

As Mourinho saw at Chelsea, footballers tend to stick together when they feel some of their own are being victimized and in a season when United are falling short of their targets, the puppeteer calling the shots and firing the verbal bullets of dissent should be wary of alienating the one group of people who can revive his reputation.

WENGER REIGN HAS BECOME A SHAMEFUL FARCE

With five Premier League games left of their most traumatic season in two decades, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger stands accused of placing a shameful shroud of instability over his club.

The refusal of the man who has stood proud as a beckon of virtue at the top of English football since his arrival at Arsenal in 1996 has generated a toxic atmosphere at Arsenal by refusing to confirm whether he will remain at the helm next season, with their 2-0 defeat against Tottenham on Sunday the latest humiliation for this once great manager.

Never mind that Spurs will finish ahead of Arsenal for the first time in 22-years as that is minor story compared to the crisis that will engulf Arsenal for as long as Wenger plays this curious game of deception over his future at the club.

He tells the media he has made a decision over his future…then confirms he will not announce what he is going to do…then says he is already planning for next season.

Seriously, if your petulant child was behaving like this, you would tell them to grow up, but Arsenal’s owners and their chief executive Ivan Gazidis are silent while their master runs this great club on his own terms.

Arsenal may have been about more than this one man for a long time now, but he needs to be reminded that this club is still more important than he will ever be and however unpleasant that may be for those who needs to deliver that message in the next few weeks, Wenger needs to be told his time is up.

GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH?

The Premier League are keen to promote their brand as the most exciting in world football, yet Saturday’s desperate set of fixtures undermined that boast in graphic fashion.

On a night when the epic Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko fight at Wembley Stadium captured the imagination of the sporting world, Match of the Day host Gary Lineker admitted his own broadcast was suffering arguably it’s lowest moment in the history of the Premier League.

The viewing figures for a set of games featuring the Premier League’s lesser lights and their battle to secure 14th spot in the table was X-rated viewing in many ways, the antithesis of a sporting show that proclaims to be the most entertaining in all of sport.

The truth is that outside of the top six teams, there is a lot of mediocrity in English football’s top flight, with the relegation of Sunderland on Saturday highlighting the incompetence of the league’s most incompetent band of no-hopers.

INDEPENDENT.IE TEAM OF THE WEEK

Eldin Jakupovic (Hull)

Stephen Ward (Burnley)

Gary Cahill (Chelsea)

Harry Maguire (Hull)

Victor Moses (Chelsea)

Dele Alli (Tottenham)

Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea)

Victor Wanyama (Tottenham)

Pedro (Chelsea)

Jamie Vardy (Leicester)

Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)

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