Jose Mourinho’s relationship with the media has been a tumultuous one since he arrived in England in 2004. From that first interview, when he announced himself as the ‘Special One’, the press knew that he was going to be one to watch over the coming years.
For better or worse, Mourinho’s time in England can be characterised by how he described it in the media at the time. From describing Chelsea as a ‘little horse’ in need of milk to proclaiming that there was a campaign against the Blues, Mourinho has always had an opinion on it.
His latest comments on fixture congestion, though, are exposing a different side to Mourinho. A side that played a pretty significant part in why he was fired by Chelsea just over a year ago, and a side that is beginning to see key figures, like Roy Keane, turn on the Portuguese manager.
Mourinho recently bemoaned the fixture congestion that Manchester United are having to deal with at present, stating that the club would “probably lose” their next game as a result. Indeed, for a club of Manchester United’s stature, that does not set a very good precedent, though it is a sentiment that has worked for Mourinho in the past.
It is a comment that angered a certain Roy Keane, though, who described the comments as “garbage” and “utter nonsense”. Whilst Roy Keane is a divisive man – he did seem spot on with those remarks.
Indeed, when broken down, Mourinho is just dealing with the consequences of a successful side. A club like Manchester United are always going to be fighting on all fronts, and so fixture congestion simply comes with the job. Furthermore, when you actually look at the games, Mourinho is making the situation sound far worse than it actually is. A game every three days is tough to manoeuvre, of course, but the Red Devils had over a week off before their first game against FC Rostov, and the international break will give many of Mourinho’s players some respite over the coming two weeks. Considering the breadth of Manchester United’s squad, the fixtures in question should be relatively simple to get through.
Mourinho’s comments on a grander scale seem to follow a very similar theme of discussion, and they all seem to point towards a manager who is struggling. He recently proclaimed Paul Pogba as the best player on the pitch in their FA Cup encounter against Chelsea, and that simply wasn’t the case. The Frenchman has struggled since his arrival, and his performance against Chelsea was arguably one of his worst yet.
What this all comes down to is the ‘us against them’ mentality that has worked so well for Mourinho in the past. In terms of fixture congestion, his comments essentially serve as a means of drawing praise whenever Manchester United win – but then shifting the blame if they fail to do so. With Pogba, he is blaming the media for putting too much scope onto the Frenchman – drawing fire away from what are genuinely poor performances. This will sound particularly familiar to Chelsea fans. The difference this time is that Jose Mourinho is a manager that has been brought in to get results, and shifting the blame isn’t what he should be doing.
The Red Devils have remained in sixth place for the much of the season, and Mourinho’s comments reek of desperation. He is well aware that his side isn’t doing well enough, and considering the money and players that he was afforded last summer, he knows that his job is on the line.
He likely won’t respond to the criticism well, but it is about time that Mourinho recognises his mistakes. His mouth has often been able to cash cheques that have been backed up by his performances on the pitch. At Manchester United, though, he is facing a far tougher task than ever before. Constant excuses and blame passing aren’t going to work amongst the passionate Old Trafford faithful, and other figures are likely to follow Roy Keane in criticising the Portuguese manager.
The Portuguese manager has had a decent first season in charge, but the problems that caused his downfall at Chelsea are quickly emerging once more. He must change his approach if he wants to succeed in Manchester.