Mour­inho al­ready show­ing signs of strain at United

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Jose Mour­inho has picked fights through­out his tro­phy-laden coach­ing ca­reer, typ­i­cally against soc­cer au­thor­i­ties, match of­fi­cials, the me­dia and op­pos­ing man­agers.

Now, he’s in­creas­ingly tak­ing on his own play­ers. The joy­less, tur­bu­lent open­ing months of his ten­ure at Manch­ester United have been pock-marked with pub­lic out­bursts against the team in gen­eral but also against spe­cific in­di­vid­u­als.

Eng­land de­fender Luke Shaw has taken the brunt of it. Six weeks ago, Mour­inho was openly crit­i­cal of Shaw’s de­fen­sive work in United’s 3-1 loss to Wat­ford in the Pre­mier League. On Sun­day, Shaw was one of two play­ers - the other be­ing Chris Smalling - crit­i­cized by Mour­inho for fail­ing to play through the pain for a league game against Swansea.

“There is a dif­fer­ence,” Mour­inho said, “be­tween the brave, who want to be there at any cost, and the ones for whom a lit­tle pain can make a dif­fer­ence.” Usu­ally, the Por­tuguese coach makes such com­ments af­ter a loss or poor per­for­mance, us­ing them as a kind of di­ver­sion­ary tac­tic in clas­sic Mour­inho style. Ex­cept on this oc­ca­sion, United had just won 3-1, mean­ing the re­marks in some re­spects sab­o­taged what had been an im­por­tant win for the club af­ter a re­cent run of poor form. Also, Shaw was a strange tar­get, given the left back missed most of last sea­son be­cause of a bro­ken leg and has felt dis­com­fort since.

There are other ex­am­ples of Mour­inho’s at­tacks. Af­ter United’s 2-1 loss to Manch­ester City in the derby at Old Traf­ford on Sept. 10, Mour­inho was openly crit­i­cal of the dis­plays of Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan and Jesse Lin­gard, who were sub­sti­tuted at half­time. He also said his cen­ter backs, Da­ley Blind and Eric Bailly, ap­peared to be “try­ing to do what I told (them) not to do.”

Some will ar­gue that there is lit­tle wrong with a man­ager point­ing out a player’s mis­take, that the pam­pered mod­ern-day player needs to have a thicker skin. Yet, a coach rarely goes down that route, at least in pub­lic.

Even Alex Fer­gu­son, United’s of­ten-volatile man­age­rial great, would pro­tect in­di­vid­ual play­ers from crit­i­cism at all costs.

“I could crit­i­cize my team pub­licly,” Fer­gu­son said in his re­cent au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, “but I could never cas­ti­gate an in­di­vid­ual af­ter the game to the me­dia. The sup­port­ers were en­ti­tled to know when I was un­happy with a per­for­mance. But not an in­di­vid­ual.” Mour­inho used to abide by this un­writ­ten man­age­rial code.

Frank Lam­pard, one of Mour­inho’s dis­ci­ples from his two spells at Chelsea, ex­plained in 2013 how the Por­tuguese coach used his out­bursts in the me­dia to cre­ate a storm de­lib­er­ately. “But he does pro­tect his play­ers,” Lam­pard said. Nowa­days, it seems he does it to pro­tect him­self.

Be­fore the win at Swansea, United was eighth in the 20-team Pre­mier League and had slipped to third place in its Eu­ropa League group fol­low­ing Thurs­day’s 2-1 loss at Fener­bahce, af­ter which Mour­inho at­tacked his play­ers’“global at­ti­tude” and ac­cused them of be­ing “frag­ile.” This is United, the record 20time cham­pion of Eng­land which spent about 150 mil­lion pounds (about $185 mil­lion) on new play­ers in the re­cent trans­fer win­dow.

Things aren’t go­ing to plan for Mour­inho he still, for ex­am­ple, doesn’t ap­pear to know his best team - and it’s show­ing in his un­rav­el­ing of his per­sonal dis­ci­pline.

He was re­cently charged twice by the English Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, for com­ment­ing about a ref­eree be­fore a game and then ver­bally abus­ing a match of­fi­cial at half­time of a game. The lat­ter of­fense meant he had to watch United’s vic­tory at Swansea in the di­rec­tor’s box rather than the dugout.

He has re­peat­edly railed at the “Ein­steins” in the me­dia world who have been crit­i­cal of his lineup se­lec­tions and his team’s dis­plays.

He even said in an in­ter­view with Bri­tish broad­caster Sky Sports last month that his liv­ing sit­u­a­tion - he cur­rently is stay­ing in a Manch­ester ho­tel - “is a bit of a dis­as­ter.”

It’s the per­sonal at­tacks so early his United ten­ure that stick out, though, and it’s a wor­ry­ing echo of the fi­nal days of his most re­cent job. His sec­ond stint at Chelsea ended sourly in De­cem­ber 2015, when he was fired days af­ter say­ing his play­ers had “be­trayed” his work by de­fend­ing so poorly in a 2-1 loss at Le­ices­ter. Chelsea said there had been a “pal­pa­ble dis­cord be­tween man­ager and play­ers.” It could be head­ing the same way at United. — AP

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