Al­ways un­pre­dictable and al­ways rivet­ing

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - JAMIE JACK­SON

JOSÉ MOUR­INHO’S “re­spect, re­spect, re­spect” melt­down af­ter Manch­ester United’s 3-0 loss to Tottenham was bizarre to wit­ness for a re­porter who has cov­ered the Por­tuguese since his first Chelsea ten­ure be­gan 14 years ago. Mour­inho can be curt and abrupt but had never been out of con­trol. That was un­til the end of the post-game brief­ing at Old Traf­ford in Au­gust.

He claimed the home sup­port had shown how happy they were with the re­sult by ap­plaud­ing the side to the end. So this cor­re­spon­dent won­dered, given that fans were be­ing used as a barom­e­ter of con­tent­ed­ness, what the man­ager might gauge from the many who had left early. Mour­inho got an­gry, quickly.

“I would do the same, los­ing 3-0, tak­ing two hours from here to the cen­tre of Manch­ester [it takes 30 min­utes]. So keep try­ing, keep try­ing, keep try­ing. Just to fin­ish, do you know what was the re­sult?” he said, in­di­cat­ing the dig­its he was hold­ing up on his right hand. “3-0, 3-0. Do you know what this is? 3-0. But it also means three Premier­ships and I won more Premier­ships alone than the other 19 man­agers to­gether. So re­spect man, re­spect, re­spect, re­spect.” Then he stormed out.

Yet if Mour­inho re­mem­bered who prompted the episode, he never showed it when field­ing ques­tions over the next four months: un­til his sack­ing last Tues­day he al­ways an­swered as if noth­ing had hap­pened.

This was more in keep­ing with his usu­ally calm style when deal­ing with the me­dia, though a first in­sight into why his ten­ure was trou­bled came be­fore he was even hired. In April 2016, some within his camp com­plained off the record to this re­porter that United were silent about whether they wanted Mour­inho to re­place Louis van Gaal.

The tone of in­dig­na­tion in the brief­ing sug­gested a sense of en­ti­tle­ment that em­anated from a man­ager who was avail­able be­cause he had been sacked by Chelsea the pre­vi­ous De­cem­ber. Per­haps more re­veal­ingly, it hinted that Ed Wood­ward, the ex­ec­u­tive vice-chair­man, was re­luc­tant to ap­point him in the first place.

Mour­inho was never a joy­ous soul to deal with. In­stead he was de­tached in some press con­fer­ences, mo­rose and seem­ingly dis­con­tented in oth­ers: a puz­zle con­sid­er­ing his CV.

His moods made him un­pop­u­lar with play­ers and staff, and he was hardly adored by the me­dia. A nadir came when Mour­inho called an 8am con­fer­ence the Fri­day be­fore United’s 3-2 win over New­cas­tle in Oc­to­ber. The time was no prob­lem but his abrupt man­ner told many that this was a man who could be rude and dis­re­spect­ful, es­pe­cially as he took ques­tions for only 212 sec­onds. This is not the im­age United wish to project of a classy, global en­tity.

There was a te­dious cat-and-mouse episode dur­ing the sum­mer tour of the US in 2017 re­gard­ing whether Mour­inho would grant the “sit-down” tra­di­tional for re­porters whose com­pa­nies have paid thou­sands for them to fol­low the club around the world. In the end he did, in Wash­ing­ton, and he was po­lite and gra­cious, of­fer­ing ac­cess to that morn­ing’s train­ing ses­sion; but not for the first time, there was baf­fle­ment as to what the orig­i­nal fuss was about.

Last sum­mer Mour­inho did refuse the sit-down, which crowned a pre-sea­son tour that be­gan in the odd­est way at his open­ing press con­fer­ence, in Los An­ge­les. “Ev­ery­thing is re­ally bad,” he said. Sea­soned United cor­re­spon­dents did dou­ble-takes and asked each other: “What is he say­ing and why?” The per­for­mance set the tone for United’s poor cam­paign.

There were lighter mo­ments. In the sum­mer of 2016 a press con­fer­ence was sched­uled in Bei­jing, in the build-up to the first over­seas derby with Manch­ester City. As ever-grow­ing num­bers crammed into a tiny and swel­ter­ing box room at a venue next to the Na­tional Sta­dium, a ru­mour went round that Mour­inho was not go­ing to ap­pear be­cause of the heat. Then, word was given he would do the brief­ing, but out­side — which meant the me­dia were now swamped by fans and well-wish­ers, num­bers swelling to a far­ci­cal level.

He could be more than ac­com­mo­dat­ing on oc­ca­sion. When United played a Europa League game at Feyeno­ord that Septem­ber, Mour­inho spied a group of re­porters and stopped for a friendly, ur­bane chat.

An­other off-the-cuff high­light came two months ago, when he left United’s coach to walk to Old Traf­ford be­cause it was stuck in traf­fic be­fore the Cham­pi­ons League match against Ju­ven­tus. Telling here was a United me­dia of­fi­cer’s re­ac­tion when this was put to them for con­fir­ma­tion. “Surely not — even José wouldn’t do that,” came the firm re­sponse.

Oh yes he would, and he had. That was cov­er­ing Mour­inho in a nut­shell: al­ways un­pre­dictable, al­ways rivet­ing.

Jose Mour­inho’s moods made him un­pop­u­lar with play­ers and staff, and he was hardly adored by the me­dia

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.