Since Mourinho’s Manchester arrival in the summer of 2016, there has been an aura of “not quite convinced yet” around the ‘Special One’s’ Mancunian project, or more so, the lack of one. Very few supporters have completely bought into the character that is Jose Mourinho. While a decade ago, Alex Ferguson’s complaints and grievances towards title rivals and the F.A. were heralded as ingenious mind games, Mourinho’s have come across as immature, unprofessional and ungrateful.
In many ways, fan criticism of Mourinho’s behaviour in front of the press is justifiable, not least, because it’s both easy and enjoyable. Who doesn’t love laughing at Jose’s struggles, believing it’s all karma for the arrogance and villain-like actions of the past? Who doesn’t love a third-season collapse of his sides, adding more fuel to the “he’s never won without big money” fire? The reason why Ferguson got away with it is that he earned the right to say it. He got supporters on his side with results and silverware on-the-pitch, giving his off-the-pitch gripes more validity while trying to influence the few small margins which his players could not.
Twitter and the wider internet were alight with Mourinho-bashers on Sunday, many of whom were Manchester United supporters. His comments after on United’s pre-season, young players and their transfer dealings lent themselves to easy headlines for the tabloids following their 4-1 defeat to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and allowed anyone and everyone with a keyboard to claim that the Portuguese coach had lost it.
Mourinho said he believed United would be “in trouble”, in regards to the start of the season, mainly due to the number of players being given an extended break due to their World Cup exploits and also injuries. When asked about Alexis Sanchez’s pre-season difficulties, the United boss claimed that the Chilean was in a hopeless situation given the circumstances.
“Look, do you want him to be very happy with the players he has around him? We are here just to survive and to have some not very ugly results. Alexis is the only striker we have. And the poor man is there trying his best.
“This is not our squad. Reinforcements, you mean players that I would like to buy, that’s another thing, but this is not my squad. This is not even half my squad or 30% of it. So don’t look to this.
“I just hope the boys on deserved holidays take care of themselves a little bit and somebody wants to do what [Marcus] Rashford and [Phil] Jones do, which is to be back a little bit earlier to try and help the team, because for the beginning of the season we are going to be in trouble.”
On further transfer dealings, Mourinho told the media that he wants two players from the list of five given to the United hierarchy back in March, but believes he will only get one before the window closes in 10 days time.
Are the comments as unfair and as pretentious as many have made out? In a word, no. Although Mourinho was foolish to make the comments and should’ve realised that so many casual fans worldwide would only get to see the click-bait headlines instead of the quotes, what he says is true. United’s squad for their pre-season tour is a shadow of what it will be a few weeks into the season.
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero, Joel Pereira, Lee Grant
Defenders: Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian, Diogo Dalot, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, RoShaun Williams, Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly, Axel Tuanzebe, Demetri Mitchell, Luke Shaw
Midfielders: James Garner, Ander Herrera, Andreas Pereira, Scott McTominay, Ethan Hamilton
Forwards: Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Joshua Bohui
Mourinho was right when he said: “this is not my squad”. Not even the most romantic of Manchester United supporters could believe that Mitchell, Chong, Bohui, Gomes, Williams and Grant (all of whom featured versus Liverpool) will have any major part to play in this coming season if any part at all. For Mourinho, he must feel like an armchair-cynic who believes pre-season tours are just a PR operation to generate added revenue for the club. The man can be forgiven for being fed-up of having to prepare his team for a season without the likes of Matic, Jones, Young, Rashford, Lingard, Rojo, Pogba, De Gea, Lindelof, Lukaku and an injured Chris Smalling. It’s entirely possible that the aforementioned names could make up a starting eleven for a United game at some stage next season on their own. To suggest that adequate preparation could be had without all of those names is kidding no one.
Once again, on paper, it all seems satisfactory. It all seems fair. United’s 81 points last season could’ve easily turned out to be 86 if it wasn’t for 5 dropped points in dead rubbers last May. On paper, two trophies in two seasons, and an F.A. Cup final defeat to add to an 81 point season all seems satisfactory, even if it’s not the brilliance of the all-conquering Ferguson sides of the past that so many United supporters are used to.
This is Jose Mourinho’s most ambitious project yet: to make the world feel sorry for Manchester United fans.
— Nick Miller (@NickMiller79) July 29, 2018
People will say that Mourinho just doesn’t fit in with the culture of Manchester United, but that also is false. Man United’s motto may as well be “everyone else hates us but we just don’t care”, not just on the pitch, but off it as well. If there’s any manager in world football who lives and breathes that motto on the sideline then it is surely Jose Mourinho, or at least he used to. Maybe he’s matured, or maybe he’s toned down the character which he portrayed at Chelsea and Madrid, believing that he needs to be more of a humble individual while in charge at Old Trafford.
It’s been well documented that the style of play has let down supporters, at times sucking the fun out of watching the Red Devils. But supporters also don’t have a leader to get behind. A leader that they know everyone else in the league despises, a leader who will fight their corner in every press conference and every match, a leader with needle, and lots of it.
To be honest I would give it Neil Warnock just for the roar.
— Ste.A (@sarm0161) July 29, 2018
Just as Mourinho has sucked the entertainment value out of his team’s performances, age and maturity seem to have sucked out his polarising nature. As a Liverpool supporter, I can now bear him, and if anything I have a lot of respect for him. I certainly respect him a lot more than I would’ve 10 or 15 years ago, during his first stint at Chelsea, or even 4 years ago when he produced that infamous celebration at Anfield following Chelsea’s 2-0 win over the Reds in April 2014. Today’s Mourinho seems like one incapable of producing that same amount of needle and rallying up that same amount of hatred from opposition supporters. And that in many ways, is why United supporters will never love the man as much as they once hated him, so many years ago.
All the best.