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Mourinho is a top-class winner but a better sore loser

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Chelsea's 5 - 3 defeat at the hands of Tottenham on New Years Day was only the second time in Jose Mourinho's fabled career that he has had to endure the indignity of the manita.  Michael Regan/Getty Images

Chelsea's 5 - 3 defeat at the hands of Tottenham on New Years Day was only the second time in Jose Mourinho's fabled career that he has had to endure the indignity of the manita. Michael Regan/Getty Images

Getty Images

Chelsea's 5 - 3 defeat at the hands of Tottenham on New Years Day was only the second time in Jose Mourinho's fabled career that he has had to endure the indignity of the manita. Michael Regan/Getty Images

After the fifth goal they chanted for a sixth but Barcelona's fans could've told them that five is the perfect number.

In Spain they call it the manita, the little hand, the full deck - a goal for each finger. And last Thursday Tottenham Hotspur's fans watched with mounting delirium as their side racked up a riotous quintet against Chelsea and Jose Mourinho. It was quite the New Year's day at White Hart Lane.

It was only the second time in Mourinho's fabled career that he'd had to endure the indignity of the manita. The first was in El Clásico in November 2010 when Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and company thoroughly humiliated his Real Madrid team.

Tottenham's performance wasn't quite as imperious: they won 5-3 to Barca's 5-0 that night at the Camp Nou. But they did everyone who wants a compelling championship race all the way to next May a major favour.

It is only six weeks since Chelsea looked unassailable in the Premier League having played 12, won 10 and drawn two. Eight points clear of Manchester City by that stage, one bookmaking firm had already paid out to any punter who'd backed them for the title.

Chelsea subsequently dropped five points, away to Sunderland and Newcastle in late November/early December. Their away game to Stoke City at the Britannia before Christmas promised to be another severe examination of their credentials; points might be shed here too. But they were efficient and undaunted in that hostile arena. It was further proof that they had the necessary mental toughness and physical power to complement their luxuriant attacking class. And on St Stephen's Day they dispatched a buoyant West Ham side that had begun the day in fourth place.

Mourinho had been sweetness and light all season, more or less, as the latest of his grand plans unfolded exactly to his liking from early August. He had built another squad designed to conquer and the proof was in the points.

We'd almost forgotten the overweening sense of entitlement that travels hand in hand with his remarkable talent. The two are so deeply intermeshed it is impossible to discern which is the cause and which the effect. Does his compulsion to dominate drive his vocational excellence, or does this excellence convince him he's entitled to dominate the world he inhabits?

When Mike Tyson notoriously bit a chunk from Evander Holyfield's ear in June 1997, one popular explanation advanced for his behaviour was that Tyson had finally run into someone he couldn't bully and intimidate into submission. He couldn't cope psychologically with an opponent who wouldn't defer to him.

When Mourinho grabbed the ear of the Barca coach Tito Vilanova in August 2011, it was tempting to think that this was a similar manifestation of thwarted entitlement, albeit a much more puerile version of Tyson's deranged frustration. Barcelona and Pep Guardiola would not bend the knee; they went on to win the title after that 5-0 in November; they beat Madrid 3-1 on aggregate in the Champions League semi-final, and won the final too. Three months later, Mourinho was behaving like a spoiled child on the sideline with Vilanova.

And sure enough, he finally erupted again last Sunday after Southampton held his side to a 1-1 draw at St Mary's. The referee's decision to sanction Cesc Fabregas for simulation, instead of awarding him a penalty, launched his manager on the warpath in post-match press interviews. It was vintage Mourinho - the paranoia, anger, scorn and denial.

And the strategic opportunism too, for the ref had been wrong to show Fabregas a yellow card, thereby giving Mourinho a brief hold of the moral high ground. And from this rickety scaffold he claimed there was a concerted "campaign" to portray his team as divers. Which of course opened him up to the charge that players like Cahill and Ivanovic had been guilty of blatant dives against Hull City and West Ham in recent weeks. He was reminded too that Costa and Willian had actually received yellow cards for diving in the same Hull game on December 13.

But he slipped out of these counter-arguments with some judicious whataboutery concerning other incidents and various tackles that could have left a few of his players "with broken legs".

He had clearly rehearsed his arguments and lined up his case load of exhibits for the prosecution. And inevitably it was concocted with one eye on the future: he was warning off prospective referees from holding preconceived notions about their propensity for simulation. They were getting a reputation and, no matter how valid, he was there to dismantle it. The success or otherwise of this brazen exercise in public spin will be apparent over the coming weeks.

But irrespective of the strategy behind it, he probably just needed to let off a blast of steam anyway. The long preceding period of relative tranquillity had left him feeling itchy; he needed to stir the pot in the same way as a dog needs to scratch himself.

He was at it again after the Tottenham result on Thursday. The referee came in for another episode of shaming and blaming. But it was a more lame attempt at diversion this time because Spurs had been patently the better team.

Mourinho doesn't get beaten often. But it was a timely reminder that, despite all the charm he may radiate when winning, he can't be beaten half often enough.

thecouch@independent.ie

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