Jose Mourinho's refereeing 'conspiracy' - Three reasons he might have a point
After a period of intense media scrutiny on his off-the-field antics, it was Mario Balotelli who once famously produced a shirt with the message 'Why Always Me?' emblazoned on the front.
Now Balotelli's former manager at Inter Milan is prickling with the same indignation, sparked by what he perceives to be biased officiating and unfair media coverage.
Mourinho launched into an astonishing rant in the wake of Manchester United's goalless draw with Hull in which he suggested there was a deliberate campaign from Premier League referees and officials to hamper his team's season.
The 54-year-old claimed he was being treated 'differently' to other managers, for whom the rules are applied differently. Does the Special One have a point? In a bid to address the 'media bias', let's examine the case for Mourinho's argument.
Case one: confronting match officials
Mourinho was left indignant on Wednesday evening after Jurgen Klopp escaped punishment for his confrontation with a fourth official during Liverpool's draw with Chelsea.
The Liverpool manager reportedly shouted: "Nobody can beat us!" at the Anfield fourth official after Simon Mignolet had saved Diego Costa's spot-kick.
While Klopp later apologised for his outburst, Mourinho was left bemused by the overall reaction to the incident.
“Yesterday one fourth official told a manager 'I enjoy very much your passion'," said Mourinho in his post-match press conference.
“Today I was told 'sit down or I have to send you to the stands,' so everything is different for me."
It remains uncertain whether Klopp will face punishment for his touchline episode, but it's true to say that Mourinho was more severely punished for a similar incident.
The 54-year-old was given a one-match touchline ban after being sent to the stands for confronting Mark Clattenburg during Manchester United's 0-0 draw with Burnely. So is there an explanation for the contrasting punishments?
The difference between the incident involving Mourinho and the one involving Klopp was that FA rules prohibit 'using foul and/or insulting words towards an official'.
While the general consensus seems to be that Klopp has been fortunate to avoid sanction, the incident falls outside 'foul or abusive'.
Case two: kicking bottles
A the end of last year, Mourinho was given another one-match touchline ban after being charged with improper conduct for kicking a water bottle.
The FA explained the act "endangered people around him" during Manchester United's 1-1 draw with West Ham at Old Trafford.
Mourinho, who was also fined £16,000 for the incident, was sent to the stands by referee Jon Moss - a decision he insisted was punishment enough.
"I kicked a bottle of water. I cannot do it. If I do it, then it’s a sending off. After that, there is a punishment," said Mourinho.
“I accept that it’s a sending-off and, in fact, if you see the images when the referee comes over, I don’t say a word or make a complaint. I accepted the suspension of one match and it’s as simple as that. But it has to be the same for every manager. It has to be the same.”
Was the punishment the same for other managers? If you take the case of Arsene Wenger in 2009 - again, at Old Trafford - the answer is no.
Wenger was famously sent to stand amongst jeering Manchester United fans after kicking a water bottle in frustration during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford.
However the Arsenal manager escaped either a ban or a fine and was instead issued with an apology by the Referees' Association after an embarrassing situation that saw Wenger banished to stand with Manchester United supporters.
If you take the Arsene Wenger incident as a precedent then Mourinho's punishment does seem disproportionate, but only without the context of previous behaviour.
Case three: sarcasm
Jose Mourinho's long-time nemesis and cross-city rival, Pep Guardiola, recently escaped retribution from the FA following Manchester City's defeat to Chelsea in a fractious game at the Etihad.
At one point the Manchester City manager could be seen sarastically applauding referee Anthony Taylor who, at times, struggled to keep control of the match as tempers flared on both sides.
The match was overshadowed by a mass brawl at the end of the game that saw Cesc Fabregas pushed over the advertising boardings by City midfielder, Fernandinho.
Speaking afterwards Guardiola continued to employ a sarcastic tone, 'apologising' for the referee's decisions: “It is a pity it finished like this. It was the way the referee decided. It is a pity. I apologise.”
Is being sarcastic about a referee's performance permitted by the FA? Mourinho's £10,000 fine in May 2014 suggests it shouldn't be.
Mourinho was fined £10,000 for using sarcasm in his post-match comments in relation to referee Mike Dean and referees’ chief Mike Riley, following defeat to Sunderland.
The then Chelsea manager was found to have brought the game into disrepute after describing Dean’s performance as “unbelievable, really amazing”.
Mourinho then added his congratulations to Riley for “the way he organised things this season, referees doing really well according to the objectives.”
Take all these incident in isolation and you can build a picture that the Manchester Untied manager is, and has been - treated differently by the FA.
But the key point is that the Football Association have - and will continue to - take previous behaviour into account when deciding when and how to punish a manager.
Klopp, Wenger and Guardiola have all been treated with leniency in the past in acknowledgement of their historic exemplary conduct.
Unfortunately for Jose Mourinho, the Portuguese has created a rod for his own back with his penchant for a prickly, confrontational demeanour on and off the pitch and he will continue to be severely curtailed as a result until he changes his approach.