Comment: Why Jose Mourinho has NOT earned the right to criticise Manchester United fans
There was palpable tremor of annoyance among Manchester United fans when manager Jose Mourinho somewhat bizarrely criticised them for 'booing' striker Romelu Lukaku after the 1-0 win against Tottenham on Saturday.
After a sparkling start to the season from Lukaku, United's leading scorer is currently in the midst of a five-game scoreless run and yet there was no sense that the club's fans were turning against a striker who has already bagged seven Premier League since £75m move from Everton last summer.
While there have been grumblings about his work-rate in recent weeks and former United defender Gary Neville is among those who have suggested Lukaku still has much to improve before he can join the ranks of the club's great strikers, all sensible observers appreciate this 24-year-old forward is still a work in progress and patience will be required before he fine tunes his rough edges.
So there was a degree of bemused confusion among United supports when Mourinho offered up one of his more feisty responses to a question about the frustration some have expressed in Lukaku's performances over the last month after Saturday's 1-0 win against Tottenham.
"They can boo a player that doesn't deserve to be booed, they can boo a player who is working like an animal, even though the game is not going in his direction," stated Mourinho when asked about the negativity towards Lukaku. "They pay the ticket they can do what they want."
The reaction to those comments on Twitter was a fusion of annoyance and angst among United fans.
Most were unaware of the 'abuse' that Mourinho suggested had been flying in Lukaku's direction, with the odd outburst of annoyance at he failed to chase down balls against Tottenham hardly evidence of fans turning against the player.
Of course, we have seen Mourinho criticise his own supporters in the past, with his pleas for more vocal support from Chelsea fans at Stamford Bridge accepted at a club where he was, arguably, big enough to make such lavish statements.
Strange comments by Mourinho about Utd fans not backing Lukaku. He seems to be looking for problems that aren’t there...— Mark Ogden (@MarkOgden_) October 29, 2017
Now that he is manager of mighty Manchester United, his attempts to encourage fans to support his own players need to be crafted with a little more class.
While United supporters sing the name of the manager who guided them to two major trophies in his first season at the club, there is still unease among large swathes of the club's vast fanbase around the world that this this volcanic and divisive manager is the figurehead of their club.
The success Mourinho inspires everywhere he goes covers up the flaws in his make-up, but comments of the ilk he offered up at the weekend give the United fans who will never been converted to the Jose hymnbook license to emerge from the shadows.
Many of the clubs fans are bored and even embarrassed by the negative tactics Mourinho uses in a big games - especially away from home - and while Alex Ferguson was not shy when it came to lambasting rivals in press conferences, there is a feeling that the antics deployed by the man now sitting filling the role are not befitting of a Manchester United manager.
Yet in the opinion of United legend Paul McGrath, the criticism of Mourinho that is bubbling under the surface right now is misguided.
"I cannot believe people still question this genius," he wrote in his Sunday World column. "A lot of people seem to delight in Mourinho failing and the euphoria was in full flow after United's surprise defeat a Huddersfield earlier this month.
"United fans and too many journalists who should know better were spewing nonsense about how everything was going wrong for Mourinho, but let's sprinkle some perspective here.
"We are talking here about one of the greatest managers of all-time. A two-time Champions League winner, a three-time Premier League title winning manager and a tactical master who has proved himself time and again.
People forget Pogba and Zaltan are not around at the moment, and still Man Utd travel upwards . It's called management of a Team .MUFC.— Paul McGrath (@Paulmcgrath5) October 29, 2017
"I suspect part of the reason people are quick to try and put Mourinho down is that they are jealous of his success."
It was a stout defence of the United manager from one of his longest standing cheerleaders, but Mourinho needs to use all his experience in the game to appreciate that he needs to amend the way he treats the supporters at his latest post.
Surveys suggests that Chelsea are noted for having the largest number of 'tourist' supporters and that may explain the often stile atmosphere at Stamford Bridge, but United fans will not take kindly to an 'outsider' coming into their club and telling them how they should back a team that was winning trophies long before he arrived in the summer of 2016.
Mourinho has not earned the right to chastise United supporters and when he picks a fight that they didn't even know they were a part of, he is playing with fire.