Jose Mourinho looking increasingly embattled as Man Utd manager
Portuguese's side suffered humiliating 4-0 defeat at his old club Chelsea
The 53-year-old calls his current situation a 'disaster'
In a stadium where fans used to chant his name, jubilant Chelsea supporters reveled in Jose Mourinho’s pain.
His new team, Manchester United, was decimated by his old one and the man who’d once patrolled Stamford Bridge like he owned it watched on helplessly as his star-studded team was thrashed 4-0.
The Portuguese became most animated when reportedly accusing Chelsea’s new manager, Antonio Conte of humiliating him by rousing the home support.
Embattled, seemingly joyless and increasingly bitter, has the “Special One” become the “Snarky One?”
“He seems like an anxious man with a lot of pressure on him,” Jose Carlos Freitas, a journalist with Portuguese newspaper Record, told CNN.
“In my opinion, he realizes he’s in a situation where things are going to be very difficult for him and the team, and that is why he looks so gray.
“I think he is still marked in psychological terms with what happened last season with Chelsea. It was a real nightmare for him. And it is coming back now with Manchester United.”
While living in the top-floor suite of a five-star hotel might sound like the ideal life for many, for Mourinho it’s nothing more than a “bit of a disaster.”
Since making the switch from London to Manchester, the Portuguese is yet to find a permanent home and has so far been renting a room in the Lowry Hotel, three miles from United’s Old Trafford ground.
“Buy a house? I do not know… I do not know,” Mourinho told British broadcaster Sky Sports.
“But the reality is that my daughter will be 20 next week. My son will be 17 in a couple of months. They are very stable … university in London, football in London, friends.”
Mourinho’s daughter, Matilde, is enrolled at university in the capital, while son, Jose Junior, is a young footballer playing for Fulham’s academy.
“So, they are at an age where they can’t chase me like they did before,” he continued. “So, for the first time, the family lives in a different way. We try to feel it, we try to see the evolution of our feelings and see how we cope with the situation.
“But maybe, if I can get a good apartment… not these giant houses that the press says I’m going to buy. I will never buy that! But if I find a nice apartment with a good connection from the garage to the apartment, maybe I do it – but I can’t cook!”
The constant presence of the press and paparazzi outside his hotel, Mourinho says, means he can never leave the building in peace – even just for a short walk.
“You know the history of the paparazzi. For the hotel and the brand that sponsors me, the clothes brand, it’s amazing because they are there every day,” he explains.
“Everybody knows the name of the hotel. Everybody knows the last arrivals of that brand. So, for them, it is amazing.
“For me, it’s a bit of a disaster because I want sometimes to walk a little bit and I can’t. I just want to cross the bridge and go to a restaurant. I can’t, so it is really bad.
“But I have my apps and I can ask for food to also be delivered, which I do sometimes.”
The spark that made Mourinho such a formidable figure in the Premier League appears to have gone AWOL.
He returned to Chelsea after a spell at Real Madrid that was dripping in acrimony – one director of a rival club even calling him the “scourge” of Spanish football.
After winning the title in his second season back at Chelsea, a disastrous slump saw the 53-year-old sacked in December 2015 with the defending champion hovering above the relegation zone.
Despite spending $114 million on French international Paul Pogba, and signing Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, United has struggled this season. It sits six points off Premier League leader Manchester City, which it lost to recently, with just nine games gone. The two teams meet in the EFL Cup Wednesday.
His admonishment of Conte was either a classic Mourinho diversion tactic to switch the focus away from United’s lackluster display, or a sign the pressure is starting to tell.
“Mourinho has done the same as Conte himself in the past, more than once,” Frietas, who has followed Mourinho’s career since he won the title with Porto in 2003, said in reference to the Italian’s jubilant touchline celebrations.
“It was again part of the frustration he feels at not being to move things around as he did in the past. His team is not a great team. It can’t win the title this season. I think he realizes that but he can’t say it openly.
“Conte on Sunday was like Mourinho at the beginning at Chelsea, jumping from one side to the other, calling for the fans to back the team,” Freitas added.
“He was almost behaving like a kid – young, fresh blood trying to wake up the public, the team, the club. Mourinho had a closed face, he stood with his hands in his pockets the whole time like he was waiting for the bus. The first time I noticed he was trying to do something was only after the second goal. He missed the bus.”
A big Premier League pond
Mourinho, who along with Manchester United declined the opportunity to comment on CNN’s story, is no longer the top dog in a league sprinkled with the cream of coaching talent from around the world.
Conte masterminded a hat-trick of Serie A titles for Italian giant Juventus before leaving to coach the Italian national team. Liverpool’s larger than life manager Jurgen Klopp, won the German Bundesliga title with Borussia Dortmund with his high intensity style of play.
And Pep Guardiola, the all-conquering former manager of Barcelona – who won an incredible 14 trophies in four season at the Catalan club – is now in residence at Manchester City and has already beaten United this season.
Mourinho’s struggles, and his increasingly subdued demeanor, has seen the power of his voice diminish.
“Mourinho’s start has felt like an anticlimax after the excitement and optimism that came when he was appointed,” Arindam Rej, Manchester United correspondent for ESPN, said.
“He would have hoped to settle scores against Guardiola and Chelsea but, instead, both have shattered his aura further.
“He’s been a shadow of the man we’ve been used to seeing in years gone by. I remember attending his press conferences at Chelsea when he first arrived 12 years ago and it felt like watching a performer at a show sometimes. It could be riveting viewing.
“This season he’s shown much less bravado or appetite for mischief, other than the odd bitter barb at ‘Einsteins’ (in the press).”
A lack of swagger
Rej thinks that lack of swagger has evolved due to a private realization that his team are a way off being able to challenge for the Premier League title, and from the responsibility he feels to respect the club’s traditions.
“The fans were so warm towards him when he first arrived,” he said. “At the first preseason game you could feel the love of the crowd towards him. Despite how the team is struggling and also the way Mourinho has started looking joyless, the fans have been brilliant in continuing their support for him and the club.
“The general feeling appears to be that Mourinho needs time. He inherited a squad with problems and a couple of the players that he’s brought in haven’t done enough so far.
“Pogba has let him down badly I think so far, considering Mourinho spent so much of his huge transfer budget for improving the squad on Pogba. The players need to take their share of responsibility for the chaos against Chelsea.”
Pogba arrived from Juventus in a blaze of publicity and accompanied by a blitz of marketing material from United, but has failed to live up the hype as yet.
Mourinho has jettisoned Germany’s World Cup-winning star Bastian Schweinsteiger to the youth team, and another big-money signing, Armenian midfielder, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, has barely been seen.
And his tendency to revert to a defensive style has jarred with managers like Klopp and Guardiola, who are famed for dynamic, attacking play.
After United earned a 0-0 draw with Liverpool at Anfield earlier in October, Mourinho sarcastically referred to Klopp’s side as “the last wonder of the world.”
“We have an expression in Portugal that when a team plays good football they play at 100kph, when they play bad they play 10kph,” Freitas added. “On Sunday, guys like Pogba were playing at 5kph!
“Anyone can take the ball from them because they are so slow. I’m not saying Mourinho has all the responsibility of that but how can any club pay so much money for such players that are just regular players, in my opinion?”
Freitas thinks Mourinho will win the Premier League with Manchester United if he is given time, but says those other clutch of top level coaches have caught up with him in terms of their methods.
“He doesn’t have the magic touch that he used to have 10 years ago,” he said. “He was fresh air, as we say here, when he arrived in Porto and later at Chelsea.
“He had a different way of talking with the players. Nowadays, many other coaches are improving in this capacity, to motivate the players psychologically. I think he’s not been able to make the next step, he needs to win again.”
Beating Man City on Wednesday would be a good start.