Tuesday 12 December 2017

Comment: It was easy to overlook Jose Mourinho's many flaw when he was winning - not any more

Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

For so many years, we media types used to hang on Jose Mourinho’s every mood swing.

Back in the days when he was ‘The Special One’, we lapped up Jose’s nasty snipes at Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. We delighted in his cheeky verbal jabs at referees. We relished his spats with his own players and members of the media.

Jose was the darling of the English press pack and he knew he could play on that affection.

Whether we agreed with him or not, Mourinho was a newspaper seller and when you were granted a few minutes in his company, you knew you would come away with a great story.

“I am loved by the fans and the media (in England) who treat me in a fair way. I know in Spain it is different because many people hate me,” declared Mourinho as his days at Real Madrid were coming to a vitriolic end back in 2013, with the Spanish media’s disdain for his antics a huge contrast to the adoration he was afforded by a majority of the English press pack.

Similar feelings of animosity were aired during his time as Inter Milan manager, yet the smiles and adoration Mourinho craves were back in abundance as he was re-appointed Chelsea manager a little over three years ago, with the reception he received from the media at Stamford Bridge akin to a returning hero.

You may recall the smiling Mourinho declaring he was ‘The Happy One’ as he offered up another wonderful headline in the television section of his press conference to confirm his return to Chelsea, yet it was the reception he received when the cameras were switched off that said more about the warm feelings his presence generated among the English media.

After we were ushered into a back room at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho offered all reporters present warm handshakes before we sat around a boardroom table for a half an hour chat with a figure who can be the charming and affable and when he wants to be.

This guy has charisma to spare, he has the X Factor all the elite personalities possess and we felt privileged to have spent time in his company.

A Premier League title duly followed with Chelsea in 2015 to cement his legend, yet the events of the last year have whipped away the fantasy that Mourinho is some kind of blessed being who is immune to failure.

When you have done as much winning as Mourinho in the last 14 years, the idea that you can be knocked from your perch in the humiliating manner we have all witnessed in the last 12 months was impossible to imagine not so long ago.

Yet a little like Mike Tyson after he was knocked out by Buster Douglas in 1990, the aura of invincibility Mourinho built up over so many years in the winners’ circle has been shattered in comprehensive fashion during his rapid fall from grace at Chelsea and his troubled start to life as Manchester United manager.

He now has a pretty embarrassing and high profile sacking on his previously unblemished record. He knows what failure tastes like. He is not as special as we all thought he was.

For that reason, the Jose show is already over in many respects and it remains to be seen whether it can ever be revived.

Failure exposes all the flaws in your make-up and this explains why the UK media pack Mourinho once adored are now turning against him.

We used to ignore his annoying obsession of criticising referees, orchestrating the idea that the world is against him and his team and generally causing the kind of mayhem you expect from a delinquent child, but we are now tired of his antics now.

We roll our eyes when he has another pop at the English FA. We sigh when he claims Antonio Conte disrespected him for urging the Chelsea fans to lift their volume levels as his side were hammering Mourinho’s United last month. We’ve heard it all before. Change the damn record Jose.

When once this wonderfully divisive manager fascinated us, now we are all bored by him. As a result, one of his chief cards has been plucked away.

Mourinho’s eagerness to create a siege mentality among his players in a bid to get them to fight against the perceived injustice he promotes is only effective if your players, the media and your paymasters are willing to promote/tolerate your antagonism. That only happens when you have a halo above your head that comes from being a serial winner.

Yet after a start to life as Manchester United manager that has seen Mourinho struggle to rebuild the confidence he must have lost following his sacking at Chelsea last December, the tactician who appeared to have a Midas touch for a decade and more is now just one of the pack.

Like any other manager, Mourinho has been exposed as being beatable and for that reason, tolerance of the abhorrent side of his personality has been rapidly diluted.

As he proved at Chelsea last season, Mourinho doesn’t have a Plan B when the tide of popular opinion turns against him, with his tactic of becoming more nasty by the week and lashing out at anyone who dared to question him ending in an inevitable departure from the job he thought would be his for as long as he wanted it.

Now, this one-time agenda setter is struggling to reclaim the ground he lost amid that Chelsea episode and while those who are writing off a manager who has won 18 major trophies in a wonderfully colourful career are being a little hasty in passing the judgements, none of us have the total faith in Mourinho that once existed.

When you are a player working for or a reporter covering a legend who has a proven track record of trophy collecting, it was easy to overlook the blemishes in his character that have always been there. Not any more.

The kryptonite that took down Mourinho at Chelsea is already lurking in the atmosphere at Manchester United and this mature manager needs to recognise the warning signs.

Mourinho needs to change his ways before it’s too late. It remains to be seen whether he is capable or willing to do that.

Online Editors

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport