Sunday 25 February 2018

Mourinho red mist will soon envelop Theatre of Dreams

Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho

Luke Shaw wore the look of a small deer confronted by a thin wolf in a cold winter.

It was the image favoured by many sports editors to lead their pages and showed Jose Mourinho turning the full searchlight of his sour and petulant personality on benched Shaw while United were being chopped up by mighty Watford.

It was impossible to avoid a comparison with a year ago.

Furious that he had lost control of buying and selling at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho lost control of himself during the opening game of last season and verbally abused Eva Carneiro to such a degree that she was handed £5m in compensation during the summer.

As Chelsea's season crumbled around his ears, Cesc Fabregas and Edin Hazard were on the wrong end of his smouldering glare and scatter-gun criticisms and by the time we reached December, the Special One was roaring about being betrayed by his players.


He's started early this time. Poor results are down to Shaw and a bunch of players who won't do what they're told

Unlike Jurgen Klopp who went to some lengths to defend hapless Alberto Moreno in the first few weeks of the season, even if he had to cross his fingers behind his back while he was doing it.

Klopp's version of man management is a reflection of his personality and the same can surely be said of Mourinho.

He came riding into town with an open cheque book and a chip on his shoulder.

With the singularly unsuccessful Ed Woodward ready to bankroll a Galactico route back to the days when Alex Ferguson was in his pomp, he parachuted Paul Pogba and Ibra, two of the biggest names in the game, into a squad which was weak, unfocused and dominated by Wayne Rooney.

But Rooney looks like a beaten docket.

Mourinho must have believed that he could switch him on again, but there is no sign of it and in recent games, the club captain looks almost hangdog.

Rooney has been coasting on his reputation for the last three or four years and at a time when his club needed a leader and a hero.

Ferguson knew he could never be a Robson or a Keane in 2010, the year Cristiano Ronaldo left Old Trafford for the Bernabeu and the stage clear for Rooney to emerge as the club talisman.

He never did. Ferguson turned to Nemanja Vidic and it was Louis van Gaal who handed Rooney the armband.

The few seasons he has worn it have been Manchester United's worst in three decades and it is becoming more and more obvious that Mourinho must ditch the club captain or fail.

Those three lost years have left a legacy of weakness at Old Trafford and a squad which is poor, no matter how much Mourinho shelled out on Paul Pogba and how much the club is paying Ibrahimovic.

Once again, it is worth a comparison with Klopp's approach at Anfield and there's not a Galactico to be seen.

Klopp has immersed himself in all things Liverpool and according to those close to the club, has already inspired a significant sense of unity of approach and purpose from Academy through to the senior team.

There is no indication that Mourinho is prepared to do the kind of grassroots work which makes that possible.

He will never be as big a part of the fabric of Old Trafford as Ferguson was and still is.

If anything, he often gives the impression that he is doing Manchester United a favour by being there.

This will go wrong. The Rooney issue alone is enough to cause an earthquake at the club and Mourinho only has one choice.

He must drop Rooney and start again and he must do that while staying within reach of a Top Four position.

Along the way, he must somehow avoid any of the volcanic outbursts which eventually made his Stamford Bridge sacking unavoidable.

Already a few tendrils of smoke have begun to emerge from under his collar and it would be wise to have a good supply of popcorn to hand when the eruption finally comes.

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