Po­chet­tino’s pos­i­tiv­ity con­trasts sharply with mo­rose Mour­inho

De­spite a just-as-chal­leng­ing sum­mer, the Spurs coach looks hap­pier ahead of big clash Spurs, how­ever, have lost on all four vis­its to Old Traf­ford un­der the Ar­gen­tinian

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - PAUL DOYLE

Tonight Manch­ester United v Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur Old Traf­ford, 8pm Sky Sports PL

Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino has just a sheet of toi­let pa­per com­pared with José Mour­inho’s roll of hon­our but that is not the most per­ti­nent dif­fer­ence be­tween the two man­agers right now. As Manch­ester United pre­pare to host Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur in a piv­otal Premier League clash tonight, it does not mat­ter their man­ager has won eight do­mes­tic league ti­tles, five do­mes­tic cups and four ma­jor Euro­pean tro­phies while Po­chet­tino’s only sil­ver­ware lies in his cut­lery drawer.

What is strik­ing is the con­trast be­tween the way each man ap­pears to be han­dling sim­i­lar prob­lems. This could help to de­ter­mine the out­come of the duel at Old Traf­ford. And prob­a­bly much be­yond.

Mour­inho seems to have stewed in woe this sum­mer while Po­chet­tino has re­mained positive when he could have whined. Mour­inho has com­plained about be­ing given only three new sign­ings since fin­ish­ing sec­ond last sea­son; Po­chet­tino got none since fin­ish­ing third but has put on a brave face. Mour­inho com­plained about the num­ber of play­ers who came late to pre-sea­son train­ing be­cause of the World Cup; Po­chet­tino had more play­ers who went far in that tournament but did not belly­ache. Nor has the Ar­gen­tinian moaned about the de­lays to the com­ple­tion of Spurs’ new sta­dium.

Dif­fer­ent note

When Mour­inho warned this will be a dif­fi­cult sea­son for United he did so in the tone of a weath­er­man pre­dict­ing rain, whereas Po­chet­tino hits a sub­tly dif­fer­ent note when de­scrib­ing this as the most dif­fi­cult sum­mer he has known as a man­ager. He em­braces the chal­lenge, say­ing: “This is the most chal­leng­ing sea­son for dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances but I feel the op­po­site, too. I have plenty of en­ergy. I’m so happy be­cause we can only learn and we can be bet­ter as coach­ing staff.”

Po­chet­tino sug­gested on Fri­day the ab­bre­vi­ated pre-sea­son and lack of re­in­force­ments would force him to im­pro­vise in the early months of this cam­paign to avoid putting too much strain on core play­ers but he spun that as ex­cit­ing: “I’m not wor­ried. For the first few months you need to ex­pect we play with a dif­fer­ent start­ing XI, change a lot and maybe go from one sys­tem to an­other. We need to be sure that we don’t take risks for play­ers.”

Of course, he may say some­thing dif­fer­ent to Daniel Levy, the man re­spon­si­ble for Tot­ten­ham’s trans­fer bud­get, but Po­chet­tino takes care to pre­serve a positive mood around the club, or at least the con­vinc­ing ap­pear­ance of one. Con­trast that with Mour­inho’s petu­lant rou­tine at his last press con­fer­ence, when he could not bring him­self even to say he was happy with his squad. “You know the an­swer,” he replied when asked that ques­tion out­right. When in­vited to clar­ify, he re­peated the same thing.

A foot­ball man­ager be­ing un­help­ful to jour­nal­ists does not nec­es­sar­ily mat­ter, but who is helped by Mour­inho’s re­cent public per­for­mances? They just seem self-in­dul­gent, an op­por­tu­nity wasted, at best, by a man who knows very well the power of the me­dia and pre­vi­ously ma­nip­u­lated it with skill.

Frank Lam­pard once said when Mour­inho was Chelsea’s man­ager his play­ers used to get a kick out of watch­ing cov­er­age of his press con­fer­ences, par­tic­u­larly his jabs at other man­agers. Mour­inho took out An­to­nio Conte with a ver­bal swipe last sea­son and aimed a well-judged barb at Manch­ester City last week. But one won­ders what United’s play­ers have made of most of Mour­inho’s re­cent sound­bites. Es­pe­cially as some of those play­ers seem very pub­lic­ity-con­scious.

Still, what should be most im­por­tant is what the man­ager says to the play­ers di­rectly. Mostly we can only guess at that, tak­ing our clues from per­for­mances on the pitch. The dis­play at Brighton last week sug­gested gar­bled con­ver­sa­tions have been go­ing on at Old Traf­ford, and there must have been an­gry ones be­fore and after.

It is in­ter­est­ing to re­flect now on some­thing else Lam­pard said in the past when de­scrib­ing Mour­inho’s man-man­age­ment. “It’s a pres­ence and an aura and a way with peo­ple,” Lam­pard said in 2013.

“He gal­vanises peo­ple. His own self-con­fi­dence re­flects back on teams.” He does not seem to be gal­vanis­ing many of United’s play­ers at the mo­ment.

Self-con­fi­dence

Maybe that is partly be­cause many of those play­ers al­ready had self-con­fi­dence – and have got more of it since, for ex­am­ple by win­ning the World Cup – and they do not be­lieve the man­ager ad­vo­cates a style that en­ables them to ex­press it. Maybe the man­ager thinks some have too much self-con­fi­dence and not enough ap­petite for es­sen­tial chores such as track­ing back and fo­cus­ing for 90 min­utes. Maybe there is truth in both views and Mour­inho and some United play­ers will never get along. In which case the ex­ec­u­tive vice-chair­man, Ed Wood­ward, will have to give the man­ager more new play­ers or the sack.

Tonight’s per­for­mance against Tot­ten­ham may bring one of those out­comes a lit­tle closer. If Mour­inho is in a positive mood, he will cer­tainly re­mind his play­ers that for all the progress Spurs have made un­der Po­chet­tino they have lost on all four vis­its to Old Traf­ford un­der him. If he is at his crafty best, he might even de­flect ques­tions about the en­vi­ron­ment he is cre­at­ing at his club by sug­gest­ing they would be bet­ter di­rected at the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the one whose cap­tain, Hugo Lloris, was charged on Fri­day with drink-driv­ing. That is a prob­lem even Po­chet­tino would not try to cast as a positive.

The Ar­gen­tinian says he likes Mour­inho and ad­mires him as a man­ager. “For ev­ery sin­gle man­ager younger than him, he is an inspiration . . . he is an in­spi­ra­tional man­ager for a man­ager like me.”

Will Po­chet­tino’s team fi­nally pre­vail at Old Traf­ford, a re­sult that would au­gur well for Spurs’ tro­phy am­bi­tions and maybe in­crease the pos­si­bil­ity of Po­chet­tino fol­low­ing in his inspiration’s foot­steps one day, ei­ther at Real Madrid or United?

Or will Mour­inho and United pull them­selves to­gether to en­sure Po­chet­tino’s Spurs re­main a nearly team, at least at Old Traf­ford? – Guardian

‘‘ This is the most chal­leng­ing sea­son for dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances but I feel the op­po­site, too. I have plenty of en­ergy.

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