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Monday, August 17, 2015 

Planet football: The Mourinho delusion.

Jose Mourinho, hijo de puta.  Jose Mourinho, hijo de puta.  So the fans of Atletico Madrid gleefully sang a couple of seasons back, watching their team knock Chelsea out of the Champions League at the semi-final stage.  Translated that's son of a whore, which while not pleasant is one of the tamer chants to be heard at a football ground.  It's also apparently what Mourinho himself exclaimed as his medical team of Eva Carneiro and Jon Fearn ran on to the field in stoppage time at the end of the second half of Chelsea's first Premier League game of the season against Swansea, having been beckoned on by referee Michael Oliver to treat Eden Hazard.  In what was a fairly transparent attempt to deflect attention away from his team's stuttering performance, Mourinho went on to accuse the pair of "not understanding the game" in post-match interviews.

Normally, that would have been as far as it went.  Mourinho, like Alex Ferguson before him, is a master of blaming everything other than his team or indeed himself when his charges fail to win.  Ferguson was at least on occasion magnanimous in defeat, notably when Barcelona outplayed United in the 2011 Champions League final.

Such concessions come much harder for Mourinho, a stance that often rubs off on his players.  Mourinho is a natural cynic, making things up as he goes along, and is unashamed of resorting to tactics that are at best unsporting and at worst on the very edge of cheating.  While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with "parking the bus", a phrase Mourinho himself coined, i.e. putting 9 or all 10 outfield players behind the ball and aiming for a 0-0 draw, as the other team in such circumstances should almost always be able to carve out one decent opportunity during the 90 minutes, it's something else to tell your side to make the most of every challenge and try to get opposition players sent off, the apogee of which was reached in last season's clash with Paris St. Germain.  Despite having Zlatan Ibrahimovic red carded midway through the first half, PSG persevered with 10 men and won on away goals after equalising on the night in the second period of extra time.  Arguably, Chelsea's reputation for theatrics, especially from Diego Costa, has started to count against the team: a number of fouls on Costa last season which should have resulted in penalties were waved away.  Not that this has altered Mourinho's thinking.  Rather, he chose instead to accuse referees and the league of having a "vendetta" against his club, which at the same time deflected attention away from his underperforming players.

Carneiro's real offence it seems was to acknowledge the people who had taken to her Facebook page offering supportAs Marina Hyde says, perhaps her response was slightly grand, thanking the "general public" for their response.  Nonetheless, this simple gesture is apparently what led Mourinho, supported it seems by the rest of the hierarchy at Chelsea, to demote both Carneiro and Fearn to junior positions at club.  Mourinho at his press conference on Friday read out a statement to the effect that both could yet return to being on the bench at games, but they would certainly not be there for the game on Sunday.  Accordingly, when the two replacement medics were called on in yesterday's 3-0 defeat to Manchester City, the home fans cheered and chanted "you're getting sacked in the morning".  Mourinho's response to the utterly deserved defeat, which if anything should have been more emphatic?  "A fake result", and his team was the better side in the second half.

Mourinho can of course think and claim whatever he likes.  His responses to the opening three games of the season have all though been either delusional or to deflect attention.  The defeat to Arsenal in the Community Shield (disclaimer: I support Arsenal) was down to the opposition abandoning their philosophy, playing on the counter-attack, as though he has the right to lecture anyone else about using such tactics.  The draw with Swansea, as well as leading to the ridiculous and dictatorial treatment of Carneiro and Fearn, also saw him "refusing" to comment on a penalty incident once again involving Costa, the refusal intended to be nothing of the kind.

Other managers would not be allowed to get away with such behaviour, or at least not without widespread mocking and criticism in the media at large.  Leicester's Nigel Pearson was on a number of occasions last season brought to account for overly aggressive treatment of journalists, players and fans, and he had the decency to admit he had gone too far and apologised following his "ostrich" rant at Ian Baker.  That Pearson despite succeeding in keeping Leicester up left the club in the summer, with journalists after the apology asking if he was a bully and paranoid, is probably instructive.  Any sign of weakness from a manager is swiftly leapt upon, and when three unfavourable results in a row for a "top" club is inevitably deemed to be a crisis, deflecting the blame onto others rather than one's self is almost always going to be the first rather than last resort.

The chances of Mourinho ever being labelled a bully are remote, just as Alex Ferguson was almost never called on his similar behaviour.  As long as a manager succeeds, is seen to be succeeding, or alternatively/at the same time provides journalists with good copy, it's in the media's interests not to rock the boat, not least when clubs are increasingly treating anyone who has as much as a critical word to say about them incredibly spitefully.  There have been almost as many articles written down the years on the "mind games" between managers as there have on the matches themselves.  This refusal to at the same time as acknowledging the genius of the likes of Mourinho and Ferguson to make clear their antics are self-defeating and also damaging to the game as a whole is what leads to Mourinho and Chelsea getting away with the sheer pettiness of the all but sacking of Carniero and Fearn.

When Alan Shearer, the game's idiot's idiot, says that if Mourinho was the manager of any of last season's top four they would win the league, it's an invitation for Mourinho to imagine himself bigger than the game, to grant him carte blanche, to do as he pleases.  No one is bigger than the game.  Nor should a player be denied medical treatment because a manager deems a win to be more important, let alone those doctors then have their jobs threatened for doing what was asked of them by the only person in the position to make that call.

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