MOURINHO LOOKS SOUR AND GLUM
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.