Mour­inho has fi­nally played all his cards

Post - - SPORT - IAN LADYMAN

ON A PLANE home from a Cham­pi­ons League trip in Septem­ber 2007, Sir Alex Fer­gu­son sent staff to the back of the air­craft to ask the me­dia if it was re­ally true that Chelsea had just sacked Jose Mour­inho. For Fer­gu­son, news of the demise of his most dan­ger­ous ri­val ar­rived like a gift.

Two days ago at Manch­ester City, mean­while, home sup­port­ers di­gested news of Manch­ester United’s de­feat at West Ham, and sang: “Jose Mour­inho, we want you to stay.”

So this is how life has changed for Mour­inho. The great man­age­rial totem of our time has reached a point where he is so mud­dled, venge­ful and fail­ing that his team’s Premier League ri­vals know that he and his side can no longer hurt them.

It has been head­ing this way for a while and a per­sonal me­mory is that of a de­layed train home from Lon­don last Novem­ber. United had lost 1-0 at Chelsea and trav­el­ling sup­port­ers were quick to tell of their tired­ness, not with re­sults but with the dead-eyed na­ture of their team’s Mour­inho foot­ball.

These trav­ellers were time-served and real­is­tic. They were not the knee-jerk­ers of so­cial me­dia. They knew ex­actly what they were watch­ing and how badly it sat with the im­age they held of their foot­ball club.

So as soon as the re­sults turned, it was never go­ing to take long to get to where we are now. The sup­port­ers – the ones who mat­ter – are tired of it. And now United’s ex­ec­u­tives – them­selves tol­er­ant of, rather than en­thu­si­as­tic about, their man­ager last sea­son – are tir­ing of it, too.

Mour­inho has played all his cards this sea­son. Cun­ning PR won’t sus­tain you when your team stop play­ing, and the de­feat at West Ham was set up by Mour­inho’s stub­born and con­fused se­lec­tion, and rub­ber-stamped by play­ers who no longer wish, or know, how to play for him.

It is wretched to ob­serve.

The lack of ob­vi­ous re­place­ments may ex­tend Mour­inho’s res­i­dence for longer than some would hope or ex­pect, but in the long term it would be a huge sur­prise if there was any way back for him now. – Daily Mail

Mour­inho de­nied on Mon­day that his job was on the line, but did say some of his play­ers cared more than oth­ers be­fore the Cham­pi­ons League Group H match against Va­len­cia on Tues­day night. See a full re­port on www.IOL

Asked if he had spo­ken to the club’s ex­ec­u­tive vice-chair­man Ed Wood­ward fol­low­ing Satur­day’s loss, Mour­inho gave a tetchy re­ply.

“That’s a pri­vate mat­ter. I’m not ask­ing you who did you speak with yes­ter­day or this morn­ing, who was your last phone call, that’s a pri­vate mat­ter. I’m not go­ing to an­swer it,” he said.

United have strug­gled this sea­son, col­lect­ing 10 points from their open­ing seven Premier League matches and be­ing dumped out of the League Cup by sec­ondtier Derby County.

They did, how­ever, se­cure an em­phatic 3-0 vic­tory over Young Boys in their first Cham­pi­ons League group match.

PAUL Pogba breezed past jour­nal­ists as if he didn’t have a care in the world. “You want me dead?” joked the Manch­ester United star, turn­ing down nu­mer­ous re­quests for in­ter­views.

Given the con­tro­versy his re­marks have caused so far this sea­son, it was prob­a­bly a wise move.

His tongue-in-cheek quip was ac­com­pa­nied by a mis­chievous grin and rip­ple of laugh­ter.

Need­less to say, the mood of his man­ager and team­mates would not have been quite so jovial.

They had just lost 3-1 to West Ham in one of the most ab­ject per­for­mances from a Manch­ester United side dur­ing Mour­inho’s reign.

REUTERS/ AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

Jose Mour­inho dur­ing train­ing this week. Pic­ture:

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