FOR all the pre-match posturing, Jose Mourinho once again showed that when the chips are down he’s the game’s biggest shithouse.
The Manchester United manager had been at pains all week to tell anyone who shoved a microphone in his face that today’s fixture was “just another game” for him, intimating that he wasn’t overly concerned about Liverpool leading to suggestions from some quarters that he’d break with tradition and actually try and play a bit.
Mourinho’s admirers will no doubt point out that Jose got the result he craved and maintained the gap between the two teams, but you wonder whether United fans, beneath all that bravado, are content with such pragmatism given the football that they were once venerated for?
Having spent over £300million in two seasons you’d expect a manager of Mourinho’s calibre to show at least a hint of ambition when faced with anything other than cannon fodder instead of parking the most expensive bus in European football.
Don’t get me wrong, Mourinho excels at making light work of any team that has less than 20 per cent of his budget, something that Liverpool could be much better at, but to cover up and refuse to engage against your biggest rivals?
As suggested by Jürgen Klopp post match, imagine if a Liverpool showed such cowardice, imagine the reaction he’d get?
Maybe Liverpool should take it as a compliment, but having only one of their last seven games going to into today, surely we were there for the taking? But despite all the headlines about this bold, new United, smashing all before them, Mourinho once again reverted to type.
Maybe it’s as straightforward and Liverpool, or rather Anfield, bugging him, maybe, as pointed out this week by Jonathan Liew Jose is still stung after being rebuffed for the Liverpool job back in 2004.
Liverpool have made a litany of poor decisions on and off the pitch over the last 15 years, swerving the Portuguese Pulis isn’t one of them.
But despite all that, the reason for today’s “performance” is far more straightforward, the man who has spent more money than any other in the entire history of football, does what he always does when he fears a team may lay a glove on his and regresses to route one.
Jose’s record, and his win-at-any-cost approach, speaks for itself, but ask any fan of Chelsea or Real Madrid whether he left their clubs in better shape in which he found them despite spending fortunes, ask them about legacy, what he left behind other than a hugely expensive mess? Dynastic he is not.
A quick look at how Antonio Conte reinvigorated a Chelsea team in tatters and turned them in to league champions is evidence of what happens when Mourinho’s effectiveness, as it did at Madrid and once before at Chelsea, begins to wear off.
You often find the true mark of a man in the opinion of others when loyalty is no longer obligatory, and while you’ll struggle to find a Chelsea or Madrid fan with a good word to say, compare that with a Barcelona or Bayern fan when asked about Guardiola, a man whose teams never deviated, never wavered and never cowed regardless of who they faced.
It’s not that Mourinho doesn’t want to play decent football to universal approval, but when up against it and the mask slips, he simply hasn’t the bottle.