Of late, Jose Mourinho has been talking to the press a lot more than is usual for football managers. Of course, it is not a surprise coming from a man who claimed in his first press conference in England that he was the “Special One”. The media have always liked Jose, as he gives them regular sound bites that they can print, re-print and use it in multiple ways over quite a long period of time. In short, for the media, he is the gift that keeps on giving.
However, it is also important to understand the impact it could have on his players, the club and more importantly, the opposition. Is this all part of his mind games or is it really a manager trying to keep the focus on him so that the team can be spared from any berating by the media?
If there was a master at diverting the media’s attention from the pathetic displays of his team, then it was Sir Alex Ferguson. Time and again, opposition fans kept saying that the various media outlets spare Manchester United the same scrutiny that they do to their own team’s performances. But if you observe, the reality is that Sir Alex manages to divert the attention to some other part of the game or onto himself or the opposition or the referee whenever his team has played badly. By doing so, the focus of the discussions in the papers, and as a consequence, the fans, would be on those aspects rather than how bad the team has been.
I would postulate that this is one reason why Manchester United fans have failed for so long to see how bad their players really are. It is only this season, when the manager is not as inspirational or charismatic as Sir Alex, that the skeletons are coming out of the closet. Case in point: Even United fans agree that Cleverley is no Wilshere. Sir Alex could wring out the best from even poor players and make the squad pull through as a team and that is where his greatness lies. Moyes, unfortunately, is struggling a bit on that front.
But that is beside the point. Jose Mourinho’s rants in the media sound like an attempt to deflect attention from his team. He is perhaps thinking of the impact media pressure may have on his team, which could derail a season that is going well enough. Until their defeat to City in the FA Cup, they were in contention for 3 major trophies, and even now, they have a good chance of winning the league and going far in the Champions League.
However, saying his team is a little horse trying to keep up with the big ones is one thing; taking pot shots at rival managers is a totally different ball game. Calling Arsene Wenger a specialist in failure and saying Manuel Pellegrini does not need a calculator because he is an engineer show disrespect to his rivals. Nobody is arguing that there should always be a rivalry. But talking about teams coming out to defend when his Chelsea has made a history of it is hypocrisy.
Pellegrini and Wenger have tried to stay out of making any personal comments, though the Manchester City manager did get suckered into making one. But these managers have built teams and legacies on seemingly tight budgets, and deserve the respect they get from the rest of the football world. Jose Mourinho, even if he does intend to play mind games, is crossing a line, and it is important to understand that he needs to keep things professional.
He may want to cement his legacy with the fans, but that can be done by winning trophies. But if he really wants the respect of the football world, he should prove his worth by building winning teams instead of just buying his way through to the titles. After all, none of the teams he has managed have actually been able to continue on with the same success after he left.
That only says that for Mourinho, it is more about himself than anything else.