Sunday 18 March 2018

Comment: Why Conte and Chelsea fans were wrong to bite back at Mourinho's honest comments

Manchester United's Jose Mourinho (L) shakes hands with Antonio Conte
Manchester United's Jose Mourinho (L) shakes hands with Antonio Conte
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Robbie Brady’s stunning free-kick ensured that Chelsea dropped points in a 1-1 draw against Burnley on Sunday, yet it was some intriguing comments from former Blues manager Jose Mourinho that provided one of the talking points of the weekend.

It was at the end of a post-match television interview following his side’s 2-0 win against Watford that Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho uttered comments that were viewed as some as a criticism of his former club Chelsea.

In the hours after I posted this quote on Twitter, the huge reaction from Chelsea fans confirmed that it had hit a very raw nerve, with abuse flowing in the direction of the two-time former Blues manager.

It was a predictable response from a Twitter audience that doesn’t need much prodding to serve up some pretty hateful ‘banter’, yet the message behind Mourinho’s seemingly inflammatory comments may not have been a cynical as it first appeared.

“Before I got the job they were saying at Manchester United you need to play the football in a certain way and I agree totally,” Mourinho stated in the same interview.

“You cannot play like some successful teams in the Premier League. They play with a completely different style. We have to play attacking football and then to be humble and analyse the match.”

Mourinho has noticeably adapted his own philosophy to promote more ambitious attacking football since his move to United, yet he would argue that the more clinical approach he has used time and again in his decorated management career is reaping rewards for Antonio Conte and Chelsea this season.

The Blues have been masters of getting results under Conte’s watch and they don’t have too many concerns how people perceive them en-route to what looks like being one of the most comfortable Premier League title wins of recent years.

So while Chelsea boss Antonio Conte didn’t appreciate Mourinho comments and suggested he was “playing” with words that can look vengeful when printed without context, it may be that Mourinho was merely expressing frustrations he has often aired down the years that his teams have been negative in their approach and boring to watch.

Mourinho must be infuriated to see the players who downed tools and refused to play for him last season giving their all to the cause under Conte, but the tone of his comments on this occasion did not suggest he was up to his old trick of trying to undermine rivals with some devious words.

Instead, this was Mourinho highlighting his view that the tried and tested tactics of defensive solidity and decisive counter-attacking football is the most reliable passport to success.

He should know all about that effective and not always eye-catching approach to the game as he wrote a blueprint Conte and Chelsea are following superbly this season. We can only assume he was keen to remind his doubters about the criticism he received for using those winning tactics down the years and maybe air a little annoyance that he cannot follow a similar path now that he is manager of United.

Tottenham's away day blues continue

So the facts don’t get any more encouraging for Tottenham as they continue to flop horribly in away matches against their chief Premier League rivals.

Spurs appeared to be the most viable rivals to Chelsea in a one-sided title race when they beat the Blues in comprehensive fashion at White Hart Lane last month, but Mauricio Pochettino’s side will never be champions unless they start winning matches away from home when it matters most.

Against rivals that have finished in the top five of the Premier League since the 2006/07 season, Tottenham’s record in away games reads like this:

  • P: 48
  • W: 5
  • D: 13
  • L: 30

Saturday’s pathetically limp 2-0 defeat against a Liverpool side that have had the wind taken out of their season after a disastrous month of results was the latest miserable effort from a Spurs side that can’t match their rivals on enemy territory, with the comments of Pochettino summing up a problem that remains at a club that has accepted mediocrity for far too long.

“If you cannot cope with the pressure to play to win the league, then it is difficult to challenge and fight for the Premier League. In the first 45 minutes you saw a team that is not ready to fight for the Premier League,” said a disappointed Pochettino after a comfortable win for Liverpool.

It was a honest summation of a team that lacks the game changers to frighten rivals in the heat of battle, with Pochettino doubtless left to ponder whether he will have the finances to attract the top quality players he needs to turns Spurs from wannabes into winners.

Brady's screamer drew some mixed responses

Robbie Brady reintroduced himself to the Premier League in the grand manner as he curled in an magnificent free-kick to earn Burnley a draw against champions-elect Chelsea, with Republic of Ireland assistant boss Roy Keane spotted smiling for a nano-second as he toasted the moment.

The goal also inspired one of those wonderfully cringe-worthy Sky Sports News moments, as their presenter hailed the strike as a ‘belter of a free cock’, in an embarrassing verbal slip.

On an eventful afternoon in the snow at Turf Moor, there was also a near miss for a young Burnley fan who nearly got the full force of a football in the face until a more mature Clarets fans heroically diverted the danger at the last.


Petr Cech (Arsenal)

Robbie Brady (Burnley)

Martin Olsson (Swansea)

Gary Cahill (Chelsea)

Alfie Mawson (Swansea)

Ander Herrera (Manchester United)

Juan Mata (Manchester United)

Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

Manolo Gabbiadini (Southampton)

Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)

Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)

Online Editors

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport