Jose Mourinho has always been a man scared of failure; nothing wrong with that, it’s the very thing that drives the elite sportsmen and women. But what about when that fear of failure no longer inspires positivity within oneself, but instead engulfs the person?
Mourinho is no longer the imperious leader that guided FC Porto to the unthinkable, Chelsea to success in his first stint in west London and took Inter Milan to Champions League success. But it’s hugely important to Mourinho that he is still viewed in that very manner; it’s what drives the Portuguese to act the way he does.
When the brash, arrogant black coat came flailing down the Old Trafford touchline, it was fresh, new and the very reason for one of the biggest Champions League upsets. 13 years later, it’s an act that has worn thin, hasn’t developed or grown and, at times, reached the despicable.
In Chelsea’s Antonio Conte, Mourinho has met a younger, fresher and, more importantly, willing to learn and change, 2004 version of himself – the current Blues manager used to be defensive, aggressive and partial to a media barb like Mourinho.
Conte’s success at Stamford Bridge, a season after Mourinho left the club in 16th place, irks the current Red Devils manager more than Arsene Wenger’s reputation within the beautiful game – 100 fans marched before Lincoln City, but 100 goes into 60,000 a lot, so don’t let the minority try and a dictate the majority opinion.
“The Europa League can give us a Champions League spot, so the Europa League is more important than the FA Cup for us.”
That’s not mind games. That’s the words of a man who is scared of being humiliated at Stamford Bridge, again. That fear you have of tripping over the kerb in front of your ex. No one wants to go through it, but if you are going to have to, don’t purposefully trip yourself up, and then say you meant it; that just makes things even more awkward.
When looking in the mirror, Mourinho knows his Manchester United cannot overcome Chelsea. Therefore, Mourinho is purposefully trying to ‘trip yourself up’, with defeatist comments pre-match and then not naming a striker in the matchday squad – questions over how ill and injured Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney and Marcus Rashford truly are, are totally justified. And the answer is: “not very”. Mourinho is looking to take away any shine from Chelsea’s inevitable win and, bizarrely, trying to find a badge of honour in going: “See I told you we’d lose”.
“Monday we don’t go with a Nicky Butt team,”
“Manchester United is too big, it is the winner of the competition. It is not Chelsea’s fault that we were given this Monday match so we have to make changes for sure because we play Monday and Rostov play Sunday, but we can’t go to Stamford Bridge with a Nicky Butt team.”
It has not even entered anyone’s mind that Mourinho, a man who famously has no patience or trust in youth players, would go to a FA Cup quarter-final, against Chelsea, away at Stamford Bridge with anything resembling a reserve team. And although the comment from Jose was to say he wouldn’t be doing such a thing, the seeds have been sown that, that could even be a possibility; another excuse/escape clause for the fearful one.
Of course, Mourinho is no stranger to such pre-match defeatism. Ahead of the 2007 FA Cup Final against Manchester United with Chelsea, the fear of failure engulfed him once more, and Mourinho laid down the plans for his excuse before a ball had even been kicked:
“If he (Ashley Cole) is fit we’ll have 15 players.
“I’ll have to choose between Hilario, because he isn’t bad playing forward, or bring in a kid to make the 16.”
The build up to this game has seen Mourinho bleat on about how Chelsea have no European obligations, and therefore Conte’s achievements should be taken with a pinch of salt. But why do the Blues have no Champions or Europa League action, Jose? And the answer to that question hurts him more than anything.
If Mourinho doesn’t opt for the tracksuit and stubble ‘against all odds’ look at Stamford Bridge tonight, there’s hope for Manchester United that the (not so) Special One is up for a change within himself.