My advice would be to ignore him. So here’s 1200 words about him.
Well, frankly, I found so much weirdness in and around Southampton’s Stamford Bridge victory on Saturday evening that I couldn’t resist heading for the keyboard. There was an inevitability about Jose Mourinho’s post-match interview being news in itself, at least the Sky TV interview. The BBC only got brief highlights and there was an understandable edginess in Gary Lineker’s voice in the ‘What the Paper Say’ segment at the end of Match of the Day when he had to reference a story his employers had no rights to.
Yet most of Saturday night seemed set in a parallel universe, as closely related to the real world as anything on Doctor Who on the Beeb later that evening. Overshadowed by post-match events was just how awful much of the first half was. Match co-commentator Niall Quinn tried hard to suggest that there was “a bit more spark” about Chelsea. But, Willian’s terrific free-kick aside, there wasn’t. Some of the clearances by opposing centre-backs Gary Cahill and Virgil Van Dijk would have looked ungainly in a Ryman League game. Chelsea appeared incapable of remembering that Diego Costa wasn’t playing, which is odd because I’m sure it was in all the papers. And it dawned only very slowly on the Saints that the game was there for the taking.
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman’s replacement of Oriel Romeu with James Ward-Prowse in a holding midfield role quickly took on the semi-mythical status of tactical genius. That Mourinho made the exact same change, Nemanja Matic for Ramires, has become but a sub-plot in the “Mourinho’s going Mad” story. And the idea that both managers simply decided a holding midfielder already on a yellow card was too risky for a whole 45 minutes has barely been entertained. Romeu saw yellow for conceding the free-kick that Willian pinged into the top corner. While Ramires trod on Southampton toes with a frequency that suggested he was being sponsored in some sort of charity fundraiser. He even did it in his own penalty box. But we will, of course, come to that.
The same thought process occurred when substitute Matic was subbed himself. Such things are rare but far from unheard of, although usually the subbed subs are introduced because of injury rather than tactics. I once saw Celtic’s Joe Miller brought on and brought off within half an hour in a League Cup semi-final against Aberdeen. And if his subsequent displays for Aberdeen against Celtic had that extra bite, it was easy to guess why. Even further from unheard of is to replace a defensive midfielder with a striker when you go three-one down at home. Quinn hinted at this being the truth of the Matic matter, wondering aloud whether Matic would have been the player replaced had Southampton not scored their third goal while substitute striker Loic Remy waited on the sidelines.
Quinn’s logic wasn’t followed through and by the time studio pundit Jamie Redknapp got to discuss it, it was all about “sending messages” and “humiliating” the player. Almost as if his remit was to seek controversy even in areas where there’s barely any. Perish the thought that Sky Sports would have such an unwritten policy. There was, naturally, no need for a controversy search party when Sky’s Greg Whelan asked Mourinho what he “made of his team’s performance.” Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the early minutes was Whelan not telling Mourinho “I’m sorry but this is b****ks”, or the broadcastable equivalent. He would, after all, have been echoing the thoughts of the small slice of the nation watching.
However, his decision to let Mourinho dig his own verbal grave proved spot on, whether by design or by inability to get a word in edgeways. And boy did Mourinho dig. He opened with: “I don’t run away from responsibilities.” But it was everybody else’s fault too. “The referees,” he said four times, “are afraid to give decisions for Chelsea,” claiming that he didn’t “want to be offensive” after the fourth time. This was because “when they give, there is always a question make from you (the media).”
Referring to Radamel Falcao’s booking for diving when he clashed in the penalty box with Southampton keeper Maarten Stekelenberg, Mourinho claimed: “this penalty in this game today is more than crucial…because my team, in this moment, the first negative thing that happens, the team collapses.” Something he might discuss with Chelsea’s manager, whose “responsibility” such things are. Of the two penalties Southampton could/should have been awarded in the first half, his precise words were: “…………………………” He declared: “If the club wants to sack me they have to sack me, because I’m not running away.” He could have added: “from my multi-million-pound pay off.” But he didn’t. He did suggest that “if the FA wants to punish me, they can punish me. They don’t punish managers, they punish me, but it’s not a problem for me,” which he could have lifted from the “doth protest too much, methinks” file, and would have been news to…well…just google “touchline ban manager” and watch the list unfurl.
And his big finish was “give us a break.” No, really. “And be honest and loyal with us.” Honestly. As 200%’s main man Ian King tweeted on Saturday evening: “He’s one step from pencils up nose and underpants on head territory here.” The thought occurred, however, that for all the meticulous preparation of a match-day at clubs such as Chelsea, no-one appeared to have given Mourinho sight of the Falcao penalty incident or, in order to place the decision in the proper context of the match, the two penalty box fouls committed by his own players. Though doubtless Mourinho, manager of a club with “no divers, no divers at all” (copyright Jose Mourinho, January 2014), would not have changed his mind on the reasons for Falcao’s momentary balance lapse.
I realise I’m in a minority in believing that Falcao’s fall was the first of two penalty-box offences and therefore rightly penalised by referee Robert Madley. But sight of Van Dijk’s red vest being revealed to the world by a grasping, possessive Branislav Ivanovic and Ramires flattening Sadio Mane’s toes might have tempered Mourinho’s view of referee’s fear of the decision. That would surely have given normal managers cause to reflect on the absence of fear in Madley, refereeing his first Chelsea match (hey, what a debut), on the two-out-of-the-three penalty calls he did see. Mourinho, though, is not normal. Or at least he pretends not to be, which has long become boring.
Off-beat substitutions. Inconsistencies in public attitudes towards his players. Grandstanding conspiracy theorising. Yawn. And it simply doesn’t work. Even when Ferguson’s lambasting of referees became more visibly the drunken rantings many suspect they often were, they were at least intimidating. It is hard to be intimidating and laughable at the same time. It is easier to forget that Mourinho’s seven-minute monologue was constructed as if pre-prepared, hence the slightly out of context references to the sack and FA punishment. Imagine if it had been an ill-considered rant in the heat of the moment. Anyway, like I say, he’s best ignored… erm…
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