The Warm-Up: Jose Mourinho trolls United - what was he thinking?
And here was the Warm-Up thinking it was going to have to conjure 800 words on Mark Hughes…
WEDNESDAY'S BIG STORIES
Mourinho: It’s not me, it’s you
As you may have heard, Manchester United were knocked out of the Champions League by Sevilla last night.
" I sit in this chair with Porto; Man United out. I sit in this chair with Real Madrid; Man United out. So I don’t think this is something new for the club."
That’s right. Having manufactured a hopelessly inadequate performance and entirely self-inflicted defeat, Jose Mourinho would like to remind you of the times he won at Old Trafford while managing other teams.
Nice to know that while his team plays with a complete absence of balls, the man himself is still packing cojones the size of watermelons.
United fans: at a time when the world is laughing at you, Mourinho wants you to know he’s also laughing. Unsurprisingly, his words have created outrage, and damaged an already tense relationship with the club’s fanbase.
Given Mourinho’s supposed mastery of mind games, and reputation for never saying anything without a specific intention – what on earth is going on here?
- 1-Objectively, he’s right.
So let’s start by taking this statement entirely at face value. It’s true that United – like most teams – fail to win a European trophy most seasons. At some point they lose, and last night United’s number was up. Sad, but a fact of life. Let’s move on.
It’s also true that United have suffered defeats as bad or worse than last night’s debacle. Even ignoring the Moyes and Van Gaal eras, Alex Ferguson presided over some truly gutless European exits. Lille in 2005/06 springs to mind, as do Basel and then Athletic Bilbao in 2011/12. Mind you, Fergie did have a bit more credit in the bank.
How better to distance yourself from an embarrassment, and remind everyone of your pedigree, than to troll your own club about its past failures at your hands?
Well, almost any way. Mourinho has hammered a wedge between himself and the fans, and it’s unlikely anyone else will be impressed by his lack of accountability. It was definitely hilarious, but as reputation management it was an absolute calamity.
- 3-He wants to leave
But Mourinho knows what he’s doing, right? So he must have known he was driving a wedge further between himself and the United fans.
Maybe he’s looked at the gulf between United and a City side managed by his nemesis; he’s seen how little impact the hundreds of millions thrown at his project have had; he’s peered over the channel at the soon-to-be-vacant PSG manager’s position and thought he fancies a bit of that.
There are worse ways to save your new club some money and guarantee yourself a handy payoff than to make your position untenable. But though Mourinho has had some acrimonious exits, he has always brought success first, and it’s impossible to imagine him deliberately tanking the United job and accepting the attendant damage to his reputation. And if PSG want him, they’ll find the money. They always do.
- 4-Classic Mourinho narcissism (a.k.a. just being a d*ck)
When Donald Trump doesn’t know how to finish a sentence or loses his train of thought, he starts talking about his election win. Likewise Mourinho’s default position is to remind people of his past glories. It’s not calculated (though both men have enjoyed terrifying levels of success), they just can’t help talking about themselves.
Maybe Mourinho was genuinely trying to make the point that United have lost before (and will again) and could only think of examples when he was managing the other team. Maybe he was reacting to a wounding personal setback by talking himself up and clumsily threw his current employer under the bus.
Maybe it wasn’t calculated. Maybe he was just mouthing off.
United limp out to Sevilla
It’s 51 years since the US sportswriter Jim Murray defined soccer thus:
" Twenty-one guys stand around and one guy does a tap dance with the ball."
That’s what last night at Old Trafford felt like – albeit if Murray had finished the sentence "then lofts it 30 yards to an opponent while the crowd groans".
Mourinho said he didn’t think the performance was bad, and in some ways it wasn’t. United worked hard and played with tactical discipline. Sadly, they were also completely disjointed, lacking any sense of flow or attacking verve.
It’s more that they played like they had no idea how to go about scoring a goal.
The United boss added that the first goal always changes the game. He’s right, of course - and rarely more so when that goal comes 74 minutes into the second leg.
All this caution against a moderate Sevilla outfit that a squad of United’s quality should have blown away.
This is not Tottenham losing narrowly at home to Juventus, a team on a run of 18 wins in 20 games, whose last 14 Serie A matches have seen them concede just one goal.
This is Sevilla; fifth in the Liga and three days removed from a 2-0 gubbing at home to Valencia. Not exactly rubbish, but a dream draw for the last 16 of the Champions League.
Or maybe, with United and Spurs out and Chelsea odds-on to follow tonight, a dream Champions League draw is just ‘Any English Team’.
IN OTHER NEWS
Give Tom Adams a week off, and his Twitter game explodes.
(Frantically looks up last time Liverpool lost on a Tuesday)
Oh, you mean like the Tuesday night last September you lost to Leicester in the Carabao Cup?
And here's Justin Kluivert, excellent football guy.
HEROES AND ZEROES
Hero: This Roma ball boy
A truly wonderful dive from Roma’s win against Shakhtar – the tactic worked, as the incident sparked a time-burning melee and Roma went through on away goals.
Zero: Well, Manchester United, obviously
People commentating on their own team’s downfall might be the perfect art form.
More classic ball boy antics.
And of course the self-proclaimed ‘King of all the ball boys’, Charlie Morgan.