Jose en­gulfed by his own seige men­tal­ity tac­tics

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

HERE he was again. The dress­ing room he alien­ated. The owner that was “never his friend”. “The Re­turn”, as the broad­cast­ers were call­ing it. And to make mat­ters worse, Stam­ford Bridge’s press box, packed with the “Ein­steins” he has de­rided for the past month, was hang­ing over his dugout. The away dugout.

Jose Mour­inho has of­ten been ac­cused of man­u­fac­tur­ing a “siege men­tal­ity” at the clubs which he man­ages but he had no need to do so this time. He was al­ready sur­rounded.

One of his pre­de­ces­sors, Sir Alex Fer­gu­son, once claimed in an ad­dress to a Euro­pean Ry­der Cup team that the key to get­ting the best out of elite sports­men was mak­ing them feel “com­fort­able”. Mour­inho’s ca­reer to date, his en­tire modus operandi, has been a refu­ta­tion of that.

The will­ing­ness to play on the back foot, the pub­lic dress­ing­downs, the in­tense per­sonal re­la­tion­ships, healthy and un­healthy. He forces his play­ers onto the same knife-edge that he lives on.

Com­ing into this match, amid re­ports of a “mole” leak­ing team news to sup­port­ers and dis­grun­tled sum­mer sign­ings, it was hard not to be­lieve that Mour­inho was drag­ging his Manch­ester United play­ers into the caul­dron with him, hop­ing their shared ad­ver­sity would stir them to vic­tory.

Yet as soon as Chelsea scored the quick­est goal of this Pre­mier League sea­son so far, a mere 30 sec­onds af­ter Martin Atkin­son’s first whis­tle, he and his team wilted. There had not been time to start the engine, let alone park the bus.

It is of­ten for­got­ten that Mour­inho him­self coined that phrase, “park­ing the bus”. It was a slight on Jac­ques San­tini’s Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur side af­ter they eked out a point at Stam­ford Bridge in 2004.

San­tini’s re­sponse, that it was merely “pos­si­ble” that Mour­inho would em­ploy the same tac­tics when vis­it­ing a fel­low ti­tle con­tender, now seems al­most en­dear­ingly naive.

Back then, how­ever, the Por­tuguese was a cava­lier fig­ure. The idea that he would travel to Old Traf­ford, High­bury or An­field and at­tack did not seem so out­landish.

Now, his style is char­ac­terised by fear and that same fear was etched across the faces of his play­ers from the open­ing minute of this 4-0 thrash­ing, Mour­inho’s heav­i­est-ever de­feat in an English top-flight fix­ture.

If Chris Smalling, who had a tor­rid af­ter­noon at cen­tre­back, ever looked to the touch­line for in­spi­ra­tion, he would have only found a strangely muted man­ager, neutered by the oc­ca­sion.

Mour­inho of­fered lit­tle by way of re­ac­tion to each lapse in con­cen­tra­tion, mis­placed pass or way­ward ef­fort on goal.

The man who in­tro­duced him­self to these shores by sprint­ing down a touch­line was al­ways within his tech­ni­cal area.

He saw his goal­keeper beaten for a sec­ond, third and fourth time and still re­mained largely un­moved.

This man­ner con­trasted with An­to­nio Conte’s, whose ges­tic­u­la­tions to the home crowd for more noise in the dy­ing mo­ments even­tu­ally tested Mour­inho’s tem­per.

Hav­ing al­ready heard sev­eral ren­di­tions of “you’re not spe­cial any­more”, he did not want fur­ther ridicule from the sup­port­ers who once adored him.

And yet even then, there was no im­me­di­ate protest. No open con­fronta­tion, no ges­tur­ing of his own. It was as if, two hours ear­lier when he walked out onto the pitch he re­alised he re­ally was out­num­bered. – The In­de­pen­dent

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