Friday 23 February 2018

Comment - Jose Mourinho's patronising rant at Arsene Wenger and Arsenal overshadows tales of failure

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho resumed his favourite game of Wenger-baiting after his side lost at Emirates Stadium on Sunday. Photo: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho resumed his favourite game of Wenger-baiting after his side lost at Emirates Stadium on Sunday. Photo: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Tottenham’s defeat at West Ham on Friday night ended their faint hopes of challenging Chelsea for the Premier League title, yet it was the latest tussle in what has been an enduring war of words between two of the biggest names in the English game that stole all the headlines once more.

MOURINHO COULDN'T RESIST HIS LATEST DEVIOUS JAB AT WENGER

In the end, Jose Mourinho had the last word. He always has to have the last word.

After Arsene Wenger ended a 13-year and 13-game wait for a Premier League victory against the manager who has tormented him on and off the field for as long as he can remember, the Arsenal manager was on the receiving end of another patronising verbal torrent from Manchester United boss Mourinho.

“The Arsenal fans, they are happy,” stated a smiling Mourinho.

“I am happy for them, it is the first time I leave Highbury or Emirates and they are happy. I left Highbury, they were crying, I left Emirates, they were crying.

“They were walking the streets with their heads low. So finally today they sing, they swing the scarves - it’s nice for them.

“It’s a big club. You think I enjoy a big club like Arsenal not winning big trophies? I am not enjoying that, honestly.”

This was Mourinho in devious mode, as he argues - with some justification - that the only reason he had lost to Wenger for the first time was due to his decision to rest eight of his first choice players ahead of United’s Europa League semi-final against Celta Vigo on Thursday.

It was comical stuff, in many ways, yet he knew he was hitting a raw nerve with the manager he has had a relentless desire to patronize during their bitter rivalry.

This was Mourinho playing his favourite game of Wenger-goading once again and you don't have to scratch too far under the surface of this never ended battle to appreciate why one of the combatants feels the need to rise to the challenge every time.

Why has he continued to poke fun at Wenger time and again down the years? There is a very simple answer to that question.

Mourinho just cannot comprehend how a manager who has won two FA Cups since 2005 is still afford the kind of respect he feels never comes his way, despite his relentless trophy triumphs at Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid that have included domestic and European titles aplenty.

Mourinho has stated for years that Wenger is lucky to still be in a job and he would argue that his barbs have been justified by the unraveling of the Frenchman’s Arsenal empire in the last few years, yet his critics would argue that must be that he is also something of a specialist in failure - to pinch a line he famously used to attack Wenger - in his first season at United.

David Moyes and Louis van Gaal have been sacked by Manchester United in recent years after they failed to secure top four finishes in the Premier League.

Now in a season when so many of the sides at the top of the table have shown real fragility on a weekly basis, Mourinho can have no excuses for his failure to seal entry to next season’s Champions League without the need to fall back on a Europa League win to seal a ticket to Europe’s elite competition.

If he adds Europa League glory to the League Cup he won in February, Mourinho will get away with his most disappointing full season as a Premier League manager.  

Anything less and he will be hailed as Wenger’s natural successor in the failure stakes.

SKY SPORTS PUNDIT COMES UNDER FIRE

Sky Sports pundit Rachel Riley became the focus of nasty Twitter abuse on Friday night after she declared live on air that Tottenham had ‘bottled' the Premier League title again after their 1-0 defeat at West Ham all-but ensured Chelsea will be champions this season.

It was a ridiculous statement from a presenter who was instantly bombarded with abuse on Twitter, inspiring the self-proclaimed Manchester United fanatic to responded with what can only be viewed as an apology to the only team that made any kind of attempt to turn the one-horse Premier League into a credible contest.

After nine-straight Premier League wins, Spurs came up short on a night when West Ham’s players and supporters finally showed some enthusiasm in a game often dubbed 'their cup final' against hated rivals, yet praise and not scorn should be poured on Tottenham for their gallant efforts.

Mauricio Pochettino's men were never in pole position to win the Premier League title and if they can hold on to their best players this summer - which is far from certain ahead of some looming contract talks with key players - Spurs have a team that can challenge for trophy glory once again in years to come.

If you want to look for bottle jobs Rachel, try the lads down the road at Arsenal, who only managed to pick up their second win against a top seven rival on Sunday when Manchester United rested most of their first team players to focus on alternative priorities.

PREMIER LEAGUE POINTS LAST TWO SEASONS

1. Tottenham -    P: 73 W: 42 D: 21 L: 10 Pts: 147 (net spend £7m)

2. Arsenal -          P: 73 W: 39 D: 18 L: 16 Pts: 132 (net spend £270m)

4. Chelsea -         P: 72 W: 38 D: 17 L: 17 Pts: 131 (net spend £37m)

5. Man United -  P: 73 W: 36 D: 23 L: 14 Pts: 131 (net spend £153m)

6. Liverpool -      P: 73 W: 35 D: 22 L: 16 Pts: 127 (net spend £5m)

FRESH INJECTION NEEDED

Broadcasters are compelled to promote the Premier League as the greatest show on earth, yet this season has been anything but that for long periods.

For a second week in a row, the Saturday fixture list in England's top flight was shorn of quality matches, with the argument that Spain’s or Italy’s top division lacks the strength in depth to compare to English football banished in recent weeks.

You may struggle to recall a single moment of magic from West Bromwich Albion, Stoke, Burnley, Bournemouth and Watford over the course of this season, as they push to finish anywhere between 17th and 10th in the table struggled to capture the imagination, with former Manchester United star Phil Neville summing up the mood of depression with these comments:

Offloading Sunderland and Middlesbrough from the Premier League and replacing them with a big club like Newcastle and a vibrant newcomer in Brighton can only be welcomed in a division that has lost some of its sparkle.

INDEPENDENT.IE TEAM OF THE WEEK

Jordan Pickford (Sunderland)

Axel Tuanzebe (Manchester United)

Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)

Alfie Mawson (Swansea)

John O’Shea (Sunderland)

Ryan Bertrand (Southampton)

David Silva (Manchester City)

Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

Riyad Mahrez (Leicester)

Manuel Lanzini (West Ham)

Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)

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