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Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 12°C
Gareth Fuller Jose Mourinho (file pic).
# Analysis
Jose Mourinho's silence speaks volumes
The Portuguese boss turned up 30 minutes early for today’s press conference, which lasted just 259 seconds.

JOSE MOURINHO ISN’T happy. His actions have made that clear.

The Portuguese boss turned up 30 minutes early for today’s press conference, which lasted just 259 seconds — far shorter than is normally expected of a manager in these situations.

The exchange was notable for what was left unsaid more than anything else. There was a palpable tension, as Mourinho gave a series of curt responses.

Below, per the BBC, is an example of his reluctance to engage in any meaningful discourse.

Q: How do you feel about the way you are playing this season?

JM: I feel we played well against Leicester and we won. I feel we played bad against Brighton and we lost.

Q: What would you like to see against Spurs?

JM: I would like to play well and win.

Q: How do you do that?:

JM: To play well and win, don’t make mistakes, play well and win. That is what we want.

Q: Have Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof progressed the way you hoped?

JM: I don’t analyse with you my players.

Q: What about Spurs – how impressed are you with them, Mauricio Pochettino and how they go about their business?

JM: I’m not going to comment.

It felt as if Mourinho was trying to send out a message that he was angry and frustrated. It is telling that he even refused to answer relatively innocuous questions such as the last one mentioned above.

Perhaps it is the 55-year-old’s way of punishing the media, refraining from giving them interesting responses on account of the negative coverage United have received in recent days.

Or maybe he is simply attempting to outline his unhappiness with life in general at the club, owing to the well-documented issues he has had with the club’s hierarchy of late.

Either way, on the one hand, it is hard not to feel some sympathy for Mourinho. There are a couple of points in his defence.

The Red Devils have three points from two Premier League games — not ideal, but by no means a disaster either.

Mourinho is often compared unfavourably to Alex Ferguson. But the United job is arguably harder than ever now.

Consider the United sides of the ’90s and the points tallies recorded for their various Premier League triumphs — (in chronological order) 84, 92, 82, 75, 79. Consider as well that in the first two of these instances, the English top flight was a 22-team league and there were consequently more points to be won and games to be played. By contrast, City won the league with 100 points last season, while Chelsea prevailed with 93 points the season before.

The crux of the issue is that Fergie’s teams in their ’90s heyday could afford to start slow and catch up with their rivals later. For Mourinho though, there appears to be less margin for error — he is up against Liverpool and Man City sides that are both arguably better than they have ever been in the Premier League era.

It is unfortunate in one sense that he happens to be United manager in a period where the club’s two biggest rivals are thriving, thereby inviting constant comparisons to the Red Devils’ predicament.

The exciting brand of football that City and Liverpool employ and the significant progress both have made in recent seasons have, in some people’s eyes, diminished United’s achievements of late.

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However, winning two major trophies and finishing second last year should not be dismissed — Mourinho has out-performed every other Red Devils boss in the post-Fergie era — and yet there remains a prevailing sense of doom and gloom around Old Trafford.

It wasn’t the fact that they were beaten at Brighton, rather the manner of last week’s defeat, which did not bode at all well for the future.

The visitors looked lethargic for much of the contest with captain Paul Pogba admitting afterwards his attitude was not right.

They were uncharacteristically sloppy at the back, with United conceding three for the first time in the Premier League since a 4-0 loss to Chelsea in what was just Mourinho’s ninth match in charge.

When Mourinho teams are playing well, there is often a defiance, energy and arrogance about the man. It takes a unique person to label himself the ‘Special One’. At his best, you always got the sense that the coach was in complete control of everything at the club he managed. His infamous takedown of Ricardo Carvalho during the first Chelsea spell illustrated the brashness of a manager who almost felt he was untouchable and all-powerful.

It’s hard to imagine him being similarly strict with Paul Pogba now — many reports have suggested Chief Executive Ed Woodward deems the player as or even more important to the club than his manager.

And more disconcertingly still from the coach’s perspective, there are some similarities with previous instances — at Chelsea and to a lesser degree Real Madrid — where Mourinho teams have unraveled amid dressing room unrest.

The inept performance against Brighton was the type that Chelsea would give towards the end of the manager’s second stint at Stamford Bridge, while his press conference today had shades of the memorable “nothing to say” interview as well as other tense moments amid the turmoil of his final months at the club.

But of course, all the above points in defence of Mourinho’s reign still apply and a win over Tottenham on Monday would certainly at least quieten the manager’s critics temporarily. Yet for now, there is a sense of foreboding around the club that has parallels with Mourinho’s past failures.

Premier League fixtures (all games kick off at 3pm unless stated otherwise)

Saturday

Wolves v Manchester City (12.30)

Arsenal v West Ham

Bournemouth v Everton

Huddersfield v Cardiff City

Southampton v Leicester City

Liverpool v Brighton (17.30)

Sunday

Watford v Crystal Palace (13.30)

Fulham v  Burnley (16.00)

Newcastle v Chelsea (16.00)

Monday

Man United v Tottenham (20.00)

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