Jose Mourinho is divisive. This is a given. Frankly, this is a wild under-statement.
Or rather that used to be so, for such a long expanse of time that it became an incontestable truism. On one side of the riverbank stood a multitude that acclaimed him for his astonishing accruement of silverware, on the other were those that blanched at his methods and madness, believing him to be utterly devoid of class.
In the middle meanwhile, swimming in murky waters, were another group who saw both sides of the argument and synched them neatly together. It was precisely because of his manic neurosis, sh**ty ways and ego that the Portuguese coach was so successful. It was this combustible fuel that drove him to such heady heights. These were their claims and they would make them with a what-can-you-do smile in between sticking up for Dele Alli’s diving because if you took away his edge he would be half the player.
This was the established template until Chelsea’s 2015/16 campaign went so spectacularly awry that it sent Mourinho’s legend spinning into freefall and there is an argument to be made that it has not fully righted itself ever since. In the last three seasons this hoarder of trophies has won just two and both of them have much bigger and shinier domestic and European cousins.
A League Cup and Europa League from three years with two different squads jam-packed with ludicrously expensive signings and outright superstars. That’s hardly a disastrous haul in the great scheme of things. For Mourinho however it is.
As a result of this, public opinion has significantly shifted in recent times meaning there are now far more people residing in the critical camp than those happy to sing his praises. Worse still the negativity no longer solely focuses on his behaviour and demeanour but also questions for the first time his ability. He is a busted flush they say. He is a dinosaur.
That is not to suggest that the once special one no longer has his supporters or, as they should probably more accurately be called now, his defenders. And why the hell not because after all this is a coach who has won four different leagues and masterminded two Champions League triumphs. On our shores he won the Premier League Manager of the Year on three occasions. He is a winner and still sharp in our memories is a formidable and immensely impactful creator of teams. There is no reason to believe that he cannot be that man again.
If that assumption – or rather hope if again we’re being harshly accurate – is perfectly reasonable then what is not reasonable is that there are still a minority who inhabit the centre ground. With an absence of brilliance to explain away his erratic tetchiness there is no longer a counter-weight to his proclivity to throw his own players – or even his own club – under a bus.
There is no longer a pay-off in blaming anyone and everyone other than himself. There is no longer an end to justify the meanness. There is no longer a falsely perceived method to the madness. Now there is only madness.
So why in the name of all that’s holy are there still those who view a cruel and bullying evisceration of a young left-back in Luke Shaw and a talking down of his own club as some kind of purposeful strategy from an arch-manipulator of fate and motivation? Why are there still some who tap their nose and wink when Mourinho unleashes a sociopathic meltdown and says, “Clever old Jose. He’s deflecting the attention from his players and making the story about himself”.
No, there is nothing sacrificial about his recent actions. He was not taking one for the team; he was distancing himself from it. He was not making the story about himself. In his mind he is the story. He’s always the story and nothing and no-one else matters. And he was not attempting to shake things up with the intention to motivate. He was trying to salvage the damaged reputation of Brand Mourinho.
Is it even possible to imagine Klopp, Guardiola, Pochettino, or Wenger being so irresponsibly selfish? It is not.
Let’s put the recent Champions League defeat to Sevilla and the ensuing fall-out into the correct context. It was a calamitous evening for Manchester United and more so due to their cowardice from a timid approach. For the latter aspect in particular they endured justifiable criticism in the days that followed, criticism that would have swiftly abated as football’s circus moved on to its next talking point.
At that moment, had Mourinho come out in his presser and acknowledged that it was a hugely disappointing night for the Reds but they had a responsibility to the fans and legacy of the club to at least fight hard in the league and secure second place, that pretty much would have been that.
Only he didn’t. He had a cataclysmic, Shakespearean bout of mind-diarrhoea and in doing so he turned a temporary crisis into a towering mushroom cloud that will plausibly linger over Old Trafford until he departs.
How is that in any conceivable way shrewd?
If you believe that Jose Mourinho is not a busted flush and is capable of resurrecting his powers then all power to your elbow. But let’s have recent events right. There were no ulterior motives, simply a cruel, neurotic, selfish and brittle man unravelling at the seams before our very eyes.