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Monday 16 October 2017

Jose justified in bitter response to Conte glory

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho had a point in his cutting remarks about Antonio Conte’s lauded style of play. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images via Reuters
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho had a point in his cutting remarks about Antonio Conte’s lauded style of play. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images via Reuters

Jose Mourinho only allows feathery notes of his dark side to creep to the surface occasionally these days and when they do, an automatic mental filter kicks in which, if properly arranged, will block out his voice entirely.

It's hard to shake the image of an enraged Mourinho roaring at Dr. Eva Carneiro, his inner turmoil boiling to the surface on a hot August day last season.

After that, it was hard to take him seriously about anything and it wasn't as if he was Mr Nice before he lost the plot and ultimately, his job.

But this time, maybe he has a point.

After dispatching the increasingly desperate Premier League Champions Leicester, Mourinho's comment on Antonio Conte's debut year in England was laced with arsenic but also with truth.

Irony

To paraphrase, Mourinho pondered the irony that Conte is romping towards the title with the type of football which Roman Abramovich decided wasn't sexy enough.

What he didn't mention is that Conte is doing it with the same players Mourinho won the title with just 18 months ago.

That, alone, gives him plenty of justification for bitterness.

Everyone raved about Eden Hazard's mazy dribble against Arsenal on Saturday and the beaming Belgian admitted after the game that he should do it more often.

He didn't do it at all for Mourinho last season and was one of several players who, to all intents and purposes, downed tools until they visited White Hart Lane and roused themselves to scupper Spurs' title chances during the title run-in.

By then, Mourinho was long gone and his supporters in the stands gave the Chelsea rebels some savage abuse for it, notably Hazard.

It would be easy to say that Mourinho was so far off the deep end at that point that no player would want to play for him.

But we can't know the pressure he was under when the conditions he fought for and would not come back to Stamford Bridge without were removed.

He asked for certain players and he was given people he didn't want. It seemed that gazumping Manchester United for Pedro seemed more important than keeping Mourinho happy.

Enter Conte after an eye-catching Euro 2016 adventure with Italy and it is certain that he cares not one iota about Mourinho's complaints.

Given the same players but with the significant addition of N'Golo Kante, he set about organising them in the same way any self-respecting Italian manager would do.

In the absence of another team with a decent defence, Conte is reaping a rich reward and will have the title wrapped up in a month if he keeps his nerve.

Kante is Mourinho's type of player. He built an empire on Claude Makalale's work in midfield and perhaps if Chelsea's interfering backroom staff had done a better job and beaten Leicester to the punch for the Frenchman, he might still be the manager and aiming for three-in-a-row.

It is no hard stretch to suggest that Carlo Ancelotti's title in 2010 owed a massive debt to Mourinho and if Abramovich had settled for winning and a steady progression towards conquering the Champions League, Alex Ferguson's extraordinary records would now be under threat.

Instead, fate took Mourinho to Old Trafford where he has been spending like a lottery winner.

This was the very sin he was denounced for by po-faced United fans who looked down their noses at Abramovich when he bought Chelsea and super-charged the transfer market with oil money while Ferguson luxuriated in a stellar generation of cheap, home-grown talent.

They can't give Mourinho enough now and the summer transfer window will see more mad money thrown around.

He may be his own worst enemy and a man who wants a piece of any glory going, even if it is Conte's, but Mourinho would not be human if he didn't feel deep regret about what might have been if Roman had left well enough alone.

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