Throughout his career as a manager, José Mourinho has juxtaposed success with controversy.
The 55-year old first made his name with Porto, where over a two-year period he won six major trophies, which included two league titles, a UEFA Champions League, and a UEFA Cup. Across his two stints with Chelsea, Mourinho has captured three Premier League titles and four English domestic cups. The man from Setúbal has also enjoyed further success with both Real Madrid and Manchester United, and claimed another Champions League win with Internazionale.
The current Manchester United boss has always displayed a habit of engaging in attempted mind-games – using his words as a weapon on the hallowed battleground that is the press room. ‘When I go to the press conference before the game, in my mind the game has already started,’ he once said. This has led to the formation of long-standing, and often fiery rivalries forming between Mourinho and opposition coaches, such as Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsène Wenger, and Pep Guardiola.
The Portuguese manager is also noted for some bizarre outbursts, such as his post-match press conference vs Crystal Palace on the final day of the 2016/17 season. Where, following a disappointing term with only a league cup win as consolation, Mourinho’s players participated in a lap of honour around the pitch. While most of the match day media covered the squad, José quickly darted to the press room where only a handful of unprepared journalists resided. The meeting lasted all but ten seconds before the Old Trafford boss left with a simple ‘goodbye’.
Despite the ‘Special One’s’ track record of oddities, Man United’s summer pre-season of 2018 has revealed what appears to be an increasingly troubled side. The recent conclusion of the FIFA World Cup means players who were still in Russia for the tournaments later rounds are still away on their entitled three-week holiday. As a result, many top clubs have been without key players during their pre-season fixtures so far.
Manchester United recently participated in the International Champions Cup – an annual friendly competition held across the globe. The lack of senior players available for selection meant that a youthful side had to be deployed. Academy and reserve team players are a common site in pre-season, and many managers use the opportunity to present youngsters with senior debuts, and to see how they perform on a larger stage.
On July 28th, Liverpool thrashed their North West rivals 4-1 at the Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, in front of 101,254 onlookers. Prior to kick off, Mourinho stated ‘It is Liverpool’s first team vs Man United reserves.’ This was presumably an attempt to get in the head of Red’s manager Jürgen Klopp, however, the dig later backfired, as United’s starting line-up was on average two years older than Liverpool’s. Following the game, the ex-Chelsea boss stated he felt sorry for Alexis Sánchez for having no quality support in the line-up, and that the result was due to Manchester United not having ‘good players of twenty/twenty-one years old, like for example Real Madrid.’
Bold and dangerous
It looked as if Mourinho seemed to be allowing pressure to get the better of him. Publicly stating that one’s youth players are not good enough is both bold and dangerous. José then claimed the game gave him ‘nothing’ and that the team defeated by Liverpool was ‘not [his] squad.’ With that one sentence alone, any hopes Old Trafford’s emerging talent possessed of joining the senior ranks at Carrington were swiftly subsided. News of their coach’s comments must have been difficult to swallow for younger players looking to make an impression.
It is not the first time the sharp-tongued gaffer has proved to be a poor advocate of man management. Recent seasons have seen Mourinho repeatedly single out and criticize Luke Shaw’s abilities whenever the team has struggled for results. It was even implied that the 23-year old Englishman was overweight and unfit – a label Shaw has clearly worked tirelessly to disprove, demonstrated on Instagram in recent weeks.
Anthony Martial departed Manchester United’s tour of the United States earlier this week to travel to Paris for the birth of his son. Mourinho was reportedly furious with the Frenchman’s absence, and made his disapproval formal by stating he was only happy with the ‘attitude of most of [his] players.’ United are even reportedly planning to fine Martial, upon his return to Manchester, a fee of £180,000. Disciplinary action under these circumstances is absurd, and a far cry from Jürgen Klopp’s attitude towards Nathaniel Clyne returning to England early for the birth of his child. The former Dortmund boss even stated he has received a picture of ‘baby Clyney’ via text message. Martial has since hit back at his boss by quite rightly stating ‘family comes first’.
Mourinho’s consistent moaning about Edward Woodward’s failure to deliver requested transfer targets, combined with the singling out of key players, brushing off of youth prospects, and use of dictatorial punishments are distancing him further from his squad by the day. There is a reason the nation’s bookmakers have slashed the odds on the Portuguese’s sacking, and I believe José’s ‘bigger than the club’ attitude will be Manchester United’s downfall this season.