MOUR­INHO LOOKS SOUR AND GLUM

The Star (Kenya) - - Sports International -

he body lan­guage of Jur­gen Klopp ra­di­ates en­thu­si­asm. In­ten­sity, sure, but en­thu­si­asm more than any­thing. The Liver­pool man­ager looks like a man who loves his job. It is the same with Chelsea man­ager An­to­nio Conte, who can­not con­tain him­self dur­ing matches. Pep Guardi­ola’s man­ner­isms on the touch­line with Manch­ester City bris­tle with en­ergy and hunger. Not so with Jose Mour­inho. Not any more. The man who once had a pen­chant for slid­ing down the touch­line on his knees looks like he is act­ing out scenes from What’s Eat­ing Gil­bert Grape.

He looks sour and glum. He looks weary and he looks de­spon­dent. Truth be told, ever since he ar­rived at Manch­ester United, he looks like he can­not wait to get the hell out of there. So what is eat­ing Jose Mour­inho? What is it that is caus­ing him to make mis­takes out of noth­ing? Even af­ter vic­tory, he has been un­able to stop sow­ing dis­cord in his own camp.

A prime ex­am­ple was crit­i­cis­ing Chris Smalling for fail­ing to play through pain shortly be­fore it emerged that the cen­tre-half had bro­ken his toe so badly that he will be out for four weeks. That was the mis­take of some­one who looks tired of foot­ball and dis­il­lu­sioned with the men who play it. The Mour­inho of a decade ago would not have crit­i­cised his play­ers in pub­lic, even if he had cause. It was one of his shib­bo­leths. Louis van Gaal might have called Smalling ‘Mike’ but at least he did not ac­cuse him, wrongly, of lack­ing heart.

If we did not know bet­ter, it would look as if Mour­inho were go­ing out of his way to alien­ate his play­ers. His treat­ment of Bas­tian Sch­we­in­steiger and Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan is also baf­fling. Sure, he has never been afraid of pick­ing a fight but it was al­ways with the op­po­si­tion. Now he is go­ing af­ter his own and he is go­ing af­ter them in pub­lic. It goes against all the rules.

He is not even try­ing to put a brave face on things at Old Traf­ford. He talked a good game when he ar­rived but his bravado has quickly dis­ap­peared. Gone now is all talk of win­ning the ti­tle. In­stead, leaks from those close to him are telling us that Mour­inho has come to feel the en­tire club, not just the first team, needs a rad­i­cal over­haul.

His at­ti­tude is such a dra­matic con­trast with Klopp’s that it is im­pos­si­ble not to re­mark upon it. Be­side the Liver­pool boss, be­side Conte and Guardi­ola, Mour­inho looks like yes­ter­day’s man. Once, he ex­uded con­trol and con­fi­dence. Now, he just seems be­wil­dered.

Mour­inho al­ready looks worn down by what he has in­her­ited. He wears the ex­pres­sion of a man who is find­ing it hard to rekin­dle the magic he was once able to cre­ate at places like Porto, Chelsea and In­ter Mi­lan. It has gone — and he does not know how to get it back. Even af­ter the vic­tory against Swansea a week ago, Mour­inho sab­o­taged the mood with the at­tack on Smalling and Luke Shaw.

It has got to the stage that, when United meet Ar­se­nal at Old Traf­ford this Satur­day, Arsene Wenger will know he will never have a bet­ter chance of record­ing his first com­pet­i­tivewin against his bit­ter ri­val. There are some ob­vi­ous an­swers to ex­plain Mour­inho’s be­hav­iour. Miss­ing his fam­ily is one of them.

Those, who know him well in­sist that the im­pact of be­ing sep­a­rated from his wife and chil­dren, who are still liv­ing in Lon­don, should not be un­der­es­ti­mated.

He is used to hav­ing them around him and ob­vi­ous, he is miss­ing their sup­port as he ekes out a soli­tary ex­is­tence in a Manch­ester ho­tel. I had din­ner with a friend of his re­cently, who pointed to some­thing else that seemed even more per­ti­nent.

He ob­served that the United boss had en­joyed his great­est suc­cess at Porto, Chelsea and In­ter, with play­ers who were thirsty for hon­ours. The ma­jor­ity of them were ei­ther near the start of their ca­reers or des­per­ate to prove they still had what it took to get to the very top. Mour­inho did not have that at Real Madrid. And he does not have it at Manch­ester United.

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