Manchester United should be suspicious of Mourinho’s familiar patterns

Words By Paul Ansorge
October 18, 2017

In last week’s column I suggested that it was pretty likely that Jose Mourinho, if given any chance to do so was going to Mourinho.

Since then, he has Mourinho’d all over the shop. Indeed, this past weekend might just be the weekend in which he has Mourinho’d the most since his arrival at Manchester United. Sure there was his petty feuding with Antonio Conte last season, the lazy jibes which followed the breakup of his second marriage with Chelsea. There was the Europa League final wherein he combined the two key forms of Mourinhoing—he negated an opponents strengths at the expense of pretty football and won a trophy.

The first bit of vintage Jose this weekend came in the form of United’s utterly dispiriting performance at Anfield. His team created just one decent chance, while surrendering a number. The lack of ambition in the team selection and set up, particularly in the second half, seemed to translate to a collective nervousness on the ball. If Mourinho left Anfield satisfied at a job well done he should perhaps reconsider, taking into account just how much a draw owed to one moment of other-worldly magic from David De Gea and Emre Can’s inability to take the gilt-edged chance which fell to him. Yes, Romelu Lukaku could have scored from his one chance, but it is not generally good management to get a team to create one chance.

For Mourinho perhaps the point is enough, though time will tell whether it was a good point or not. Many United fans would disagree, but to me, it did not feel like one.

Then, though, came the other kind of Mourinho-ing. At the back end of last season and the beginning of this, as positive feelings began to swirl around the United project he is currently undertaking a nagging sensation began to develop. History would tell us that United would not be a long-term project for Jose, because nothing has ever been a long-term project for Jose. Sure, Old Trafford could turn out to be his spiritual home and he could have finally settled, but that was an outside bet given his general three-and-out rule. So how would he engineer the third season meltdown when things were on such an upward trend?

Well, this might just be contract negotiations but this weekend saw an interview given to the French press (conducted in excellent French), in which he said he would not end his career at Old Trafford, and in which he praised Paris Saint-Germain to the hilt. Again, just smart negotiations for now, but a stark reminder that this will all probably end sooner rather than later. And then, in an article by, well, let’s just say a journalist with good connections at Jorge Mendes’ Gestifute agency, Duncan Castles for the Scottish Daily Record, assertions were raised that Mourinho might leave United over frustrations with Ed Woodward’s handling of the transfer market. Never mind that he had publicly acknowledge the club had done a good job and promised not to “cry” over the lack of the summer’s fourth signing.

None of this is by way of predicting anything, really. Neither the performance against Liverpool nor the press at the weekend prove anything about Mourinho’s short, medium or long-term future at United. But they were a reminder that he is always ready to harsh a fan’s mellow. Things might well improve again in the next few weeks.

But whatever else happens, Mourinho is gonna Mourinho. It’s just what he does.

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