Sport Soccer

Friday 15 December 2017

Billy Keane: Offside rule doesn't apply when Jose is in the firing line

Billy Keane: 'Jose (Mourinho) works for the fans.' Picture: PA
Billy Keane: 'Jose (Mourinho) works for the fans.' Picture: PA
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

I'll go for a pint with you, Jose. It's not easy, this moving jobs business.

Up there you are in the room, all on your own and the only pillow talk is the sound of your own snoring.

I'd say the journalists in Manchester were delighted when they heard you were chosen. They will never have to work again now that you are the manager of Manchester United. You do it all for them.

Every press conference is a performance and your every musing is analysed and parsed for hidden meanings like clues from a Dan Brown thriller.

And we try to figure who is the real you and why you do this thing called football and is it worth the grief?

The paparazzi know where you live and it's a hotel; for four months now. In the room. I'm sure it's a nice room. The Amazon rain forest shower has more jets than Ryanair. The fridge has beer and peanuts in it. You sleep in a king-size bed but there's only one of you in it. The TV is as wide as Luxembourg. The bed is made every morning and your shirts are ironed but it's not a home, is it?

We could call him Jose the Hounded. The hunting season goes on all season long because Jose the Hounded is rich and in the public eye. Or so state the unwritten rules of a media game where there is no offside.

So why does he put himself through all this intrusion?

The only conclusion I can come to is Jose is hopelessly in love with the game. I believe too that he is in love with Manchester United and always has been.

Jose has been making eyes at United for a good few years now. He is a very brilliant man, a linguist and a self-trained psychologist. He doesn't need the money. Jose could make just as much by simply being Jose.

He could advertise almost any product bar razor blades and the TV companies would pay him a fortune for the performances they get for free right now.

Last Sunday United were beaten 4-0 by Chelsea, Jose's ex. Chelsea manager Antonio Conte deliberately humiliated Jose when he forgot the old Italian maxim "walk easy when your carafe is full." Conte jumped as high as the top tier when Chelsea scored their fourth and waved his arms to the fans as if to say, 'Come on, come on, kick him when he's down. I'm the man now.'

Conte may have been the makings of Manchester United.

Jose responded by winning the next game against Manchester City. I know it was a lesser cup and City were short several stars but Manchester United showed some courage under fire.

"The only thing I can say is I couldn't be prouder than I am to be Man Utd manager. As I wrote in my notes, the only way I know is to fight, to work and fight. The players did that for the fans, and the fans did that for the players too, because they also played this game."

The fans are behind him. The City game was for the locals and they backed Jose.

I have been supporting Manchester United ever since I was a small boy. We get to Old Trafford every couple of years. The Munich clock is stopped at the time the plane crashed. There's history everywhere. Yes, I know money talks but it doesn't buy you heart and soul.

For a while I lost interest. It was all about big money and players who didn't really care. Then the kids get you to go back to Old Trafford and we are reminded it is not the company we support but the club. I think of Best, Law and Charlton and of the Ferguson years when United brought so much joy in to people's lives.

I was having a beer and watching Man U in a pub in a part of Cape Town where the tourists are warned to avoid. The three skinny street kids were dressed only in shorts and falling-apart sandals. They were looking in at the game from outside the door of the pub.

One kid was nicknamed Giggsy. His dad disappeared when he was born and hasn't been seen since. The kids were so full of their fun. They didn't own shares in the PLC. The kids owned shares though in a Fergie team that played beautiful football.

The children had nothing and but they were taken by TV to Old Trafford. The street ruled by fear was their theatre of dreams. They were happy for a while.

There was a telling comment from Jose when he was asked if he was friends with Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea and his former employer. "He was never my friend," Jose said of Abramovich. "We always had the relationship of owner-manager; a very respectful relationship. We were never friends. We were never close to each other."

Jose works for the fans. This is why he puts up with living under house arrest in a Manchester hotel. This man is a fierce competitor with long-term goals. He respects the history of Manchester United but the winner in him needs to make his own history.

I'm pretty sure I'm right about Jose but we will only know for sure when he comes for that pint. Maybe we could get make-up in Corrie to paint a real beard on him.

Jose has only been at Manchester United since July. This team will eventually become his team. It will take time and there's no tomorrow in the world of professional football.

But Jose, by just being Jose, will convince his players they are really owned by Giggsy and his pals from Cape Town.

Important Notice: 'The Best of Billy Keane' will be launched in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin by INM's Group Editor-in-Chief Stephen Rae next Wednesday at 6.30pm. Joanna Keane O'Flynn will do the honours in the Listowel Arms Hotel next Friday at 8pm.

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