Jose fighting a long war
HISTORY could be repeating itself for Jose Mourinho (pix) - with the Fast Forward button pressed. Third season syndrome has already been diagnosed as things seem to be falling apart even before there’s any sign they might come together in the first two.
And this week he has widened the blame for Manchester United’s poor start to encompass everyone but himself. First it was the players, then the medical staff and now it’s the club itself! It raises the question: is he really there for the long haul or is he already making his excuses?
As ever with the one-time Special One-but-still-Cunning One, there are mixed messages: he says his life is a disaster as he’s living out of a suitcase yet insists it is his dream job and wants to leave a legacy.
Make of it what you will but he is still the story even though he’s bottom of the class of star managers by whichever yardstick their first few months in charge are assessed.
When the minor ailments of Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling hog the headlines, we know it must be an international break. And we know there must be more to it than an alleged lack of bottle on their part.
Of course there is: just 11 league games into a new season their manager is questioning their commitment, as he has other members of his squad, along with the competence of the medical staff and his predecessors. Whisper it softly, but this could even include the reign of Alex Ferguson.
According to the BBC, “Mourinho is investigating all aspects of first-team affairs after being dismayed at the culture he has inherited at the club.” It is understood they include “travel, pre-season tour planning, fitness, sports science and the general make-up of his squad.”
Neither David Moyes, who didn’t last a year, nor Louis van Gaal, who staggered through two, undertook the kind of root and branch review that Mourinho has initiated.
So it could well be that the Portuguese is not happy with aspects of the ancien regime of Lord Ferg where not all was scientific and a great deal based on pure instinct and football nous.
Fitness and preparation appear to be the main bones of contention but the clumsy way certain players have been singled out as wimps, others have been ostracised and some exonerated has not done much for team spirit. Indeed, they follow a familiar ‘divide and rule’ pattern employed in his third seasons at Real Madrid and Chelsea. We all know how they ended.
A cynic might say he’s looking for a way out and point to the change in his demeanour, his failure to buy a house and the disruption to his family as signs he’s preparing his exit strategy.
He has certainly morphed into the Unhappy One but that could also be because he’s found the challenge much tougher and it is likely to take longer to turn things around.
Indeed, that he’s decided there’ll be no more pussy-footing and to go for broke indicates he will be sticking around. He is fortunate that his two predecessors failed so abysmally that the club, the brand, the multi-national business or whatever you want to call it, cannot risk a third sacking in four years since Fergie retired.
That would cause a sell-off on Wall Street so if it comes to a choice between him and the players, it is the players who
Chris Smalling (left) and Luke Shaw