BACK ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
Almost a year removed now from Jose Mourinho's sacking, it's funny to see him doing his thing for another team, succeeding and failing in exactly the same ways he was succeeding and failing at Chelsea. This might not be funny if Manchester United were higher in the table, but stuck in sixth and barely a point better off than Tony Pulis at West Brom, and thirteen points behind Chelsea, it's absolutely hilarious.
Mourinho, the man who once so vocally criticized other managers for being dogmatic continues to follow his own quite dogmatic principles. Maybe not on the pitch as much, but certainly in his handling of the media and presumably his squad as well. Managers like Wenger might be dogmatic on the pitch, but Mourinho is certainly dogmatic in his off the pitch strategies. As with any dogmatic approach, after a while, it just doesn't quite work as originally intended.
Once the friend, the muse, and the biggest manipulator of the English media, Mourinho has been fighting a losing battle for a couple years now, starting with #CostaCrimes but especially since hitting the whole #campaign trail. His tie might be red now, but he was back on that trail stronger than ever on Sunday as United dropped two more points, away to Everton.
"When my teams are playing pragmatic football and winning matches and winning titles you say that is not nice and not right. Then my team play very well - and is a huge change to the last two or three years [at United] - now you say what matters is to get the result no matter what."
"In this moment we have teams getting results that defend with 11, kick ball and attack the space on the counter-attack...it is phenomenal, it's beautiful. You have to make a decision."
-Jose Mourinho; source: Evening Standard
As with his other attempts to criticize the media in recent years, this was already spun into a Mourinho vs. Chelsea thing, as if he was directly criticizing Chelsea tactics. Instead, the criticism was aimed at the reporting of tactics, with him claiming that when he was playing on the counter, it was reported negatively, but now, it's being reported as a positive. Of course, Mourinho spent most of his career talking about how results matter more than style, so it's a bit rich that now he's upset that the media is questioning his assertions of playing "good" football but not getting the "deserved" results.
As we learned the last couple seasons, the trouble with criticizing the media is that they are the ones who are supposed to be reporting on it — so when they do, they'll obviously spin things a different way than intended. We saw this with Mourinho at Chelsea (media "campaign" reported as an FA "campaign") and now we're seeing it with Mourinho at Manchester United. What's that they say about old dogs?
Last season, once Chelsea's struggles became clear, we thought it would be fascinating to see Mourinho get himself out of a brand new situation in his career. In his own words, it was his worst season and toughest challenge. He failed that one rather spectacularly — maybe he would've matched or bettered Hiddink's 10th place effort if he had stayed, maybe not. We'll never know. The sacking ensured that the final verdict would be one of failure.
Now he's facing a similar challenge at United. Nowhere near as bad of course, but after winning the first three games of the season, he's won just two of the last eleven. Maybe it's time to change at least part of his approach?
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FOOTBALL (all times GMT):
18.00: Serie A: Chievo vs. Genoa
19.00: FA Cup 3rd round draw
19.45: FA Cup, 2nd round: Lincoln City vs. Oldham Athletic
20.00: Premier League: Middlesbrough vs. Hull City