Stephen Hunt

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - STEPHEN HUNT

The smile was back on Jose Mour­inho’s face in Turin and that can only be good news for Manch­ester United and their sup­port­ers, and bad news for the rest of us.

THE smile was back on Jose Mour­inho’s face in Turin and that can only be good news for Manch­ester United and their sup­port­ers, and bad news for the rest of us. Still, I think the Manch­ester derby is com­ing at the wrong time for Mour­inho and Pep Guardiola will wipe the smile from his face to­day.

The win against Ju­ven­tus was in­cred­i­ble. The per­for­mance, for 82 min­utes, was ab­so­lutely shock­ing. At that point, when the group stand­ings came on the TV screen, United were eight points be­hind Ju­ven­tus and in third place. Now they are sec­ond and two points be­hind, with the most dif­fi­cult game won. His re­ac­tion at the fi­nal whis­tle was typ­i­cal Mour­inho. If it was me, I’d be like Jurgen Klopp in those cir­cum­stances and run out to em­brace my play­ers. En­joy the mo­ment. Mour­inho wanted to wind up the Ju­ven­tus play­ers and have a fight.

Ev­ery­thing he does is cal­cu­lated so what was the mes­sage here? Only he knows what he was think­ing but an ed­u­cated guess is that he was mak­ing sure the fo­cus, and cam­eras, were on him, not his play­ers.

Maybe he was mak­ing sure all the at­ten­tion was on him be­cause he didn’t want his play­ers to have the lime­light at the fi­nal whis­tle and get car­ried away by such a fan­tas­tic re­sult. He knows it is Manch­ester City next and maybe he wants to keep them fo­cused.

Could it be he got lost in the mo­ment and the adrenalin took over? I ex­pe­ri­enced this af­ter my col­li­sion with Petr Cech. He crit­i­cised me min­utes af­ter the game, with­out watch­ing the re­plays, and had a real go on

Match of the Day that night. When he saw me in Har­rods on the Mon­day morn­ing, he came over and shook my hand.

He is un­der in­tense pressure every minute of every day as Manch­ester United man­ager, try­ing to live with the ex­tra­or­di­nary suc­cess of Alex Fer­gu­son, and for­ever be­ing ac­cused of play­ing neg­a­tive foot­ball com­pared to Fergie’s ti­tle-win­ning teams.

He can’t even spend a week­end with his fam­ily in Lon­don af­ter the Bournemouth win with­out be­ing pic­tured get­ting off the train on Mon­day morn­ing, and peo­ple ask­ing why he still hasn’t moved out of his ho­tel.

This is a guy who won the Cham­pi­ons League and Premier League and threw his medals into the crowd. Is he go­ing to change? No.

And it is the same with his foot­ball. Wed­nes­day’s night per­for­mance may have been far from en­ter­tain­ing for the fans, but the win jus­ti­fies his tac­tics. The ap­proach to­day will be ex­actly the same.

The best man­agers are stub­born. He is the boss, no mat­ter what. I came across this sev­eral times with Mick McCarthy, most mem­o­rably when we were at Ip­swich. We’d lost badly on the Satur­day, and I was the guinea pig sent in to ask the man­ager if the lads were still OK to go to Chel­tenham races that week. Mick went pur­ple with rage. I thought he was go­ing to tear my head off.

I said we hadn’t played that badly, but it didn’t help and we were on a lousy run. Mick said he was putting his foot down and can­celled the trip, send­ing me out to tell the lads. He wanted us to feel the pain and have a good think about why he was so pissed off. He had us for an hour or so and then sent along Terry Con­nor, his as­sis­tant, to tell me the lads could go. Mour­inho is a master of foot­ball psy­chol­ogy but Manch­ester City are a dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish.

Maybe Mour­inho should look at Liver­pool’s suc­cess in two games against City last sea­son, the only team to beat and out­play them, and be brave. United have to score to get some­thing out of the game be­cause stop­ping City from scor­ing is nearly im­pos­si­ble.

It would be great to see United’s play­ers try to open them up and press, but they can’t do it. It is not nat­u­ral for them un­der Mour­inho be­cause they know what he wants them to do. He is not com­fort­able con­trol­ling his teams any other way.

City are nearly back up to speed, and that is with­out the heart­beat of the team, Kevin De Bruyne, which is a scary thought. They are al­ready close to the lev­els they reached last sea­son and every player Guardiola se­lects is con­tribut­ing.

How long they main­tain the quality will de­ter­mine how much they win. It is dif­fi­cult to keep im­prov­ing, but you know that is what Guardiola strives for. If his team are win­ning 4-0, he wants five. Then he wants six. He is never sat­is­fied.

His Barcelona team proved you can only stay at that level for so long and win things. It is hard to sus­tain it, no mat­ter how good your play­ers are. How long City stay there will de­pend on long Guardiola is pre­pared to main­tain his own in­ten­sity.

And if you can’t en­joy it, what’s the point? I think Guardiola loves be­ing the man­ager of Manch­ester City and watch­ing his team play. I’m not sure you can say the same about Jose Mour­inho.

I thought he was go­ing to tear my head off

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