Saturday 10 December 2016

Mourinho's sorcery is still seductive

Dion Fanning

Published 03/01/2016 | 17:00

'Mourinho stands apart from the societal conventions which says we are better off together than apart. Mourinho can speak about love when he returns to Chelsea, or he can tell some other comic book version of the truth if he signs for United, but we know he is ready to wander' Photo: Reuters
'Mourinho stands apart from the societal conventions which says we are better off together than apart. Mourinho can speak about love when he returns to Chelsea, or he can tell some other comic book version of the truth if he signs for United, but we know he is ready to wander' Photo: Reuters

Some of you may remember Jon Stark. Not the Game of Thrones character, but the football mercenary who first appeared in Scoop before moving on to other comics. Stark was a footballer for hire, a "footballer of the future", who went from a club in crisis to another club in crisis, charging a match fee of £1,000 with £250 for a goal. Crucially, there was no fee for a lost game. Jon Stark played on the edge.

  • Go To

And what a hero he was. He might have been a man without roots, but he was consistent in his foes: unscrupulous chairmen, conniving managers and anyone who ran their club in an unseemly way.

Yes, he was in it for himself but he also wanted to show others the way, so he would have words of unsentimental advice for a young player, or he might take a stand against the mighty forces raged against the individual. For Jon Stark, his whole life was a stand.

He was a footballer of the future, but he was also a product of the 1970s, a roaming, roving enigma in a leather overcoat. If Jon Stark couldn't be with the one he loved, he was going to love the one he was with.

Wherever Jon Stark pitched up, he was guaranteed to be greeted by adoring supporters of the club he would represent for just one game. And when he left with his match fee, as well as whatever extras he'd pocketed for goals, it was usually with the unending gratitude of the supporters from the club he left behind as he headed into an unknown future. They might have even have chanted his name after he'd gone.

They were selling Jose Mourinho scarves at Old Trafford last Monday night. In their time of desperation, Manchester United fans - or some of them - craved whatever it is Mourinho can do for them. He is out there somewhere, ready to do some good for the next club which needs him. Some may question his connection with reality and, sure, there were those who wondered if he needed to go to war quite so ferociously as he did at his last club, and the club before that, but you can't spell anti-hero without hero. And Manchester United need a hero.

Well, they did last Monday, and they may need one again this weekend which is where Mourinho comes in.

Some may marvel at how quickly Manchester United have forgotten all that was supposed to make them different, but perhaps it should be no surprise. If team spirit is an illusion created by victory, as Steve Archibald said, then maybe the secret of success is simply success.

When United fans buy Mourinho scarves or hold up banners saying 'L-eave, V-anish, G-o', it is hard to distinguish them from any desperate fans through the ages.

All those years of triumph might have been expected to provide some insulation when the bad times came. There will be many United supporters who continue to think like that, but they don't turn up at a ground with home-made banners. For others, like the supporters of any winning club, the years of triumph were the whole point, not some sort of protection against some notional bad times, which happened to other people.

Now it is happening to them, but it is not happening so badly that there isn't the prospect that everything could be altered if they recruited a manager for hire.

Some say United could win the league this season with Jose Mourinho. Certainly, it might be his best chance at the club, before he sells Juan Mata, decides to question the attitude of Anthony Martial or Memphis Depay, and forms a doomed alliance with Wayne Rooney.

Like Jon Stark or the Littlest Hobo, Mourinho stands apart from the societal conventions which says we are better off together than apart. Mourinho can speak about love when he returns to Chelsea, or he can tell some other comic book version of the truth if he signs for United, but we know he is ready to wander.

He has no choice, his narcissism makes it so. Like the lead character in Roger Dodger, Mourinho is always engaged in a process of seduction.

As he sits in a darkened booth away from the crowd in a bar, he is sending a message that "back here is the place to be".

This works as well when he is out of work as when he is employed. When he is at a club, Mourinho can use his skills to divide and conquer. When he is available, it is even more seductive, a whispering in the ears of those who are unhappy with their lot. Forget all those stories you heard about me, I am where it's at. I can change your life. Or provide, as Angie Dickinson said about her dalliance with JFK, the greatest 30 seconds of it.

This is what Mourinho offers Manchester United, the promise of change, even if the change comes at a price, and is often just the postponement of even greater anarchy.

They also feel, like so many in similarly helpless positions, that they can change him. It was amusing to read reports suggesting Mourinho would be reminded of the responsibilities Manchester United have towards promoting young players if he was appointed and it would be even more amusing to watch him explain why right now those promises had to be sacrificed in pursuit of results.

But they crave strong leadership at Old Trafford. In the post-Tito Yugoslavia that United after Alex Ferguson has become, they want a charismatic figurehead who has a record of getting things done.

United fans crave somebody who will tell Memphis Depay the truth right now, no matter how much it hurts.

But there is a downside. Mourinho comes bearing too much reality, or what he perceives to be reality, which is not necessarily the same thing. In the real world, there is always a fee for a lost game.

Sunday Indo Sport

Read More

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport