Why warning signs should be flashing for Manchester United fans at Jose Mourinho's comments
As Jose Mourinho marched out of his interview with the BBC after his side’s 2-2 draw at Stoke on Saturday, alarms bells should have started ringing for Manchester United fans.
After refusing to shake the hand of his rival manager Mark Hughes and arrogantly proclaiming his opponents were little more than long-ball merchants intent on destroying the beautiful game, this was Groundhog Day for seasoned Mourinho watchers.
When Jose doesn’t get what he wants, his eagerness to promote a sense of injustice bubbles to the surface, with anyone he can find to explain away his disappointment considered to be fair game in a PR campaign designed to protect the reputation of him and his team.
Word leaked on Sunday evening that the reason Mourinho had refused to shake the hand of Hughes was because he had ‘felt insulted’ by the ex-United striker in their feisty touchline exchanges, with the suggestion that the Stoke boss had asked for the United boss to be sent to the stands hitting a raw nerve for a manager who has been punished more than most by the FA down the years and often with unreasonable force.
Yet Mourinho should have learned from recent history when he indulges in such childish petulance.
As he discovered to his shock in a turbulent final few months as Chelsea manager that saw him sent to the stands and fined relentlessly for abusing match officials and behaving like a deranged clown on the touchline and in his media appearances, those antics only work if your audience is ready to ignore the chaos you set out to create.
During his first spell as Chelsea manager and at times in his other high profile postings, Mourinho’s players have bought into his theory that everyone from the FA to match officials and even TV companies had an agenda to undermine his team for a variety of reasons.
However, mind games of this ilk tend to have a limited shelf life and as we have all seen this brand of showmanship time and again from Mourinho down the years, the novelty of seeing him ‘lose it’ live on TV no longer has the same impact.
The £200,000 of fines and succession of touchline and stadium bans he has picked up during his time in English football should serve as evidence that he gets very little out of vendettas that only produce results if his players are willing to embrace them and he would be wise to put the Mr Angry routine back in its box before it overcomes him once more.
The Manchester United team Mourinho has moulded this season look ready to challenge for the Premier League title, even if their defensive weak spot was exposed by Stoke in an exciting 2-2 draw on Saturday.
In Romelu Lukaku, Mourinho has a forward who will fire the goals his side need to challenge for top spot and the strength in depth he has laced into a squad that is struggling to find room for the club’s reigning Player of the Year Ander Herrera, the gifted Anthony Martial and the experienced Juan Mata is impressive. Oh and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be thrown back into this mix at some point in the coming months as well.
That appraisal confirms that United have started to rebuild an aura that was lost in the years since the retirement of Alex Ferguson and Mourinho deserves credit for steering their ship in the right direction after four seasons rocking in uncomfortably choppy waters.
Yet as he proved in his final days at Chelsea and during an antagonistic few months that saw him fined, banned and clashing with FA officials and referees in the first half of last season at United, Mourinho’s tactic of presenting an image of his team being victims of conspiracies when results go against them is no longer effective.
This brilliant tactician had plenty of smile about as he looks forward to what could be a highly successful season for Manchester United and he dare not sink into a sullen mood that could undermine his own ambitions.