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Why Jose Mourinho is the way he is

OPINION: Jose Mourinho's 'Special One' performances are no longer a headline act

23 August, 2018 — By Richard Osley

I DON’T blame Jose Mourinho for being the way he is. We made him that way.

Think back: He came to England and took up the job at Chelsea and declared himself “the special one” at the opening press conference. It sounded like the sort of thing you might say as a dare. He must have been teasing, but instead of being ridiculed for presenting himself as something of a messiah, the country’s football journalists were immediately seduced by the new dreamboat in town.

It was the Special One this, the Special One that. Here was free copy: all they had to do was sit in a press conference each week, trotters up, tape some outlandish quote from Mourinho, then type it up and put it in a newspaper. They were paid money for this and considered football experts.

Mourinho, meanwhile, performed perfectly each week and the press corps loved him for it, hanging on each half-baked put-down, the pupils in their eyes turning to love hearts as he spoke. It did not matter that some of his comments were randomly antagonistic or uniquely petulant, maybe even poisonous – he accused Arsene Wenger, bizarrely, of being a “voyeur” on one occasion.

He was able to write his own story – nobody could afford to lose access to this quote-machine’s press conferences – and with bundles and bundles (and more bundles) of cash from Roman Abramovich, he was also able to outspend all of his rivals and win the league for Chelsea. It’s probably quite easy to play the cocksure cad when you can buy whoever you like in the transfer market.

This last point makes the current predicament Mourinho finds himself in at Manchester United more than ironic. Manchester City are even uglier in the way they have bought success; journalists now dutifully drool about the way they play without really mentioning that it’s all been artificially constructed by a chequebook. The lining of black humour to this excess is that one of the key victims of City’s gluttony is Mourinho himself, who just can’t seem to get United going in response.

Given how not so long ago all of football in England used to feel like it was under United’s thumb, the nation celebrated together when Brighton outplayed Mourinho’s team on Sunday. He struggled for a cracking comeback or a witty line. These days Mourinho spits out predictable panto patter about who has class and who hasn’t, he tries to retain that mean edge, and expects everybody to listen with bated breath.

And why wouldn’t he? That’s the way we once made him feel.

But the unchallenged adulation has gone. It’s like Eastenders bringing back Nick Cotton one too many times, the menace and suspense behind our favourite football baddie is lost.

People seem to prefer the kinder, chattering wisdom of Jurgen Klopp, or the suaver Pep Guardiola. And hopefully soon, Unai Emery.

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