We will miss the arch-villain Mourinho – but not as much as the Manchester United players

We’ll miss him, Mourinho. We really will. That may be an unpalatable truth we are reluctant to cede even if whispered privately to ourselves – but there it is.

We’ll miss his scowling, his sulking and sociopathic scoundrelism. We’ll miss the predictability of his villainy because all the best villains are reassuringly see-through. Imagine if they weren’t: imagine if a Bond baddie didn’t come a cropper through wild narcissism and didn’t inform 007 of his plans but instead constructed an ingenious scheme to end the world and quietly got on with it. What a weird film that would be.

We’ll miss the throwing of players under a parked bus. We’ll miss his intractable refusal to accept even a sliver of blame when things went awry and his shameless hoarding of praise after a win. We’ll miss his comical caution in a sport that has elsewhere remembered its obligation to entertain.

Jose Mourinho looks down

Most of all though I think we’ll miss the delicious and drawn-out schadenfreude at seeing a bully get his comeuppance; undone by the passing of time and an ego the size of the moon.

Mourinho was once a great coach and he was just as talented too at winding us up. He had us on strings. He had us seething with rage. Only then we wised up around the same time as his managerial effectiveness dried up and we became the marionette. Rant, you silly fool, rant. Amuse us with your lunacy and your persecution complex. Mourinho was once box-office and then he became pantomime but there is nothing wrong with pantomime: it’s a good, clean, wholesome distraction from the worrying travails of life.

Damn you Manchester United for taking away our Widow Twanky over the festive season.

I’ll tell you who else will miss the not-so-special one: the United players. Yes, those same players who were openly celebrating his sacking this week, high-fiving at Carrington and inhaling the sharp, winter air like freed hostages. Because what’s their excuse going to be now when the disappointing performances continue to rack up? Who can they hide behind now when their shortfall of ability and application produces yet more mediocrity?

Pogba and Sanchez on the pitch at Selhurst Park

Maybe the utterly misguided temporary appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will spare them some long overdue flak? Indeed that is likely. A few victories and the sorry detritus of this season can be entirely put on Mourinho. A few defeats and all eyes will turn to the board. What were they thinking? And once again the individuals most responsible for the awful mess the club is in will get off scot-free.

This is not a defence of Mourinho by the way; far from it. I’m very aware of the damage he has inflicted with the tedious football he has overseen and I’m aware too that his man-management – that was always so brutal as to be morally questionable – has descended several levels of late. He has stripped certain players of confidence. He has gone to war with others. He has fostered an atmosphere of sour discontent in the United camp and frankly if he’d headed to Manchester with the purposeful intention of dismantling the club’s long-standing sense of entitlement to excellence then he couldn’t have made a better fist of it.

Yet even so, even with accepting all of the above there has been a trope that’s done the rounds for far too long now and it has annoyed. It is this – that the players have been brow-beaten by Mourinho. They have been stifled and tethered, like broken yard dogs too scared to bark. They have had all individuality drummed out of them and that consequently has led to apathetic defeats to Brighton, and Spurs, and West Ham, and City, and Derby, and Liverpool.

Was this all down to being depleted of confidence? Was this all due to feeling a bit hurt because their boss was being mean to them? It is not ‘yer da’ to state that most of the population hate their bosses yet are still able to go into work each morning and do a decent job. It is not ‘yer da’ either to suggest that if this is indeed the primary reason why United have been so poor this term then serious questions should be asked of the players’ character – or lack of.

The truth of the matter is that once a footballer crosses the white line all that follows is on him and his team-mates. And it gets more damning too for Romelu Lukaku, Ashley Young, Nemanja Matic and co because what Mourinho demanded of them really wasn’t complicated at all. He wasn’t a Jurgen Klopp wanting his side to re-imagine themselves as ferocious pressers. He wasn’t a Pep Guardiola insisting his players exact convoluted patterns of play to a perfect standard. He wanted the basics done well.

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola

If you’re a Mourinho hater and a defender of the players who are expected to perform better now that he’s gone then please consider the contradiction at the heart of your criticism. If Mourinho really was guilty of serving up turgid, direct, rudimentary football – and he undoubtedly was – requiring his players simply to keep their shape, play short, safe passes, and refrain from exhibitionism then how woeful have they been to make a pig’s ear of even that?

I’ll miss Mourinho. I loathed the man but I’ll miss him. As their ever-handy scapegoat I think the same goes for the United players too.

Watch the video below to check out the hilarious things footballers get up to at Christmas…