No more the Pied Piper
Mourinho's no longer good or bad, but boring, and that's fatal
MAN UNITED 1
(Zlatan Ibrahimovic 21)
WEST HAM 1
(Diafra Sakho 2)
Jose Mourinho got himself sent off. Of course he did. That's what he does. That's pretty much all he does these days.
The Manchester United manager has slipped into a parody of his former self, like one of those celebrity lookalikes posing for selfies on Hollywood Boulevard.
Mourinho is doing an impression of Mourinho, mimicking his quirks and mannerisms in the hope that he fools the public into believing that he's still the real deal.
But he isn't, not anymore.
United's 1-1 draw with West Ham on Monday morning (Singapore time) underlined a number of statistical firsts for the club, none of which were flattering.
The tally of four consecutive draws at Old Trafford for the first time since 1980 is perhaps less damaging than the fact that Mourinho is longer a box office draw.
He's just boring.
He's neither a good nor bad manager, just a predictable one, which makes him damaged goods in the dugout.
At his peak, the Portuguese puppeteer had everyone dancing on strings as he uniquely played hero and villain. He engineered love and hate in equal measure to inspire his teams to beat all and sundry.
His ability to be both revered and repulsive earned him legitimate comparisons to Sir Alex Ferguson.
Indeed, the indignation after Mourinho was sent to the stands for the third time in 20 Premier Leagues, with commentators claiming that his behaviour diminishes Ferguson's legacy, was laughable.
Ferguson intimidated and abused journalists and officials in his ceaseless quest for victory. In this respect, there is no difference between the two men.
But Ferguson retained his diplomatic immunity. It was called a trophy cabinet.
In an impatient climate partially created by Mourinho's short-term approach to management, he doesn't have a recent trophy haul to fall back on.
He's no longer the Pied Piper of household names either, convincing leading transfer targets to skip along behind him.
Juergen Klopp and Antonio Conte are now the dancing, merry men of management, persuading players to join their respective fun houses.
Conte, in particular, turned Mourinho's weary, walking dead at Chelsea into a band of prancing Blues Brothers.
Only a rare loyalty to his former mentor brought Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Old Trafford.
Money took care of Paul Pogba.
And the pair combined to produce United's only moment of quality against the defensive, but limited Hammers.
Pogba's sublime cross found the Swede's head for an outstanding equaliser.
Other than that, the Red Devils huffed and puffed without really threatening to blow West Ham's flimsy house down. Indeed, substitute Ashley Fletcher might have pinched a late victory for the visitors had a cooler head prevailed.
United's play, particularly in the second-half, returned to a laboured lack of cohesion that has dogged Mourinho's tenure.
The Midas touch has deserted him, replaced instead with a constant, tiresome belligerence.
He rails against the world not to serve a cunning plan to destabilise the opposition, but because he really doesn't know what else to do.
Mourinho devoted most of his programme notes to blaming Lady Luck for United's on-going mediocrity. Poor decisions and near misses were at fault, everything and everyone except Mourinho.
Ferguson was no less scathing in his finger-pointing, but the victories just about vindicated him.
The results and performances are not on Mourinho's side.
Indeed, his sending-off neatly summarised Mourinho's predictability and shortcomings at Old Trafford.
Pogba, going around in circles, clearly dived. Mourinho, watching his side go around in circles, kicked a water bottle and then remonstrated with the fourth official (a point overlooked by his apologists).
Mourinho was sent to the stands, where he watched the most expensively assembled side in United's history toil against relegation contenders.
His antics were puerile and pointless. Most of all, they were boring.
Like a cornered bully, he's out of ideas. So he lashes out at perceived aggressors that don't really exist.
Mourinho is only at war with himself.
A third touchline ban in 20 league games beckons, which hardly helps a side suffering their worst start to a season since the EPL began.
At a time when United crave direction and stability, they are lumbered with an unstable leader lost in a fog of petulance.
Naive talk of Mourinho being an unsuitable role model for Manchester United misses a much simpler point.
Mourinho is just the wrong manager for Manchester United.
WHAT THEY SAY
“I think everyone saw his frustration was shown in a situation where it should have been a free-kick for us, but it finished with a yellow card to Paul (Pogba).”
— Man United assistant manager Rui Faria
“I think that’s just passion. I like to see that from anyone — players, staff — it’s passion for the game and a willingness to win. We all want to win just as much as each other. We just need to stick together, keep training well, keep creating chances and we will get the goals.”
— United defender Phil Jones on Mourinho’s red card
“I don’t know if he deserved to be sent off, I don’t know the rules. I don’t want any manager, especially him, to be sent off.”
— West Ham boss Slaven Bilic
Scratch head time
1. Where's the width?
From left to right, United lacked width.
Jesse Lingard is an honest trier, but his place in the United side remains a riddle. Apart from fouling Dimitri Payet - a lot - his purpose in the side was hard to fathom. The 23-year-old favoured the right wing, where not a great deal happened.
Similarly, Marcus Rashford is blessed with the physique and finishing capabilities of a barnstorming striker.
So the decision to leave him flailing on the left was perplexing.
His confidence appears shattered, arguably because he covets the No.9 role he's never likely to get in the near future.
2. Why wasn't Diafra Sakho marked properly?
Dmitri Payet's free-kick was exquisite and deserved a goal. Nevertheless, West Ham's only forward Sakho enjoyed a clear run at the cross, apart from a raised boot from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swede was blamed for poor marking, but why was he even covering for his AWOL centre backs in the first place?
3. Why promote Schweinsteiger?
Bastian Schweinsteiger was recently training with the youth team and told he'd never get anywhere near United's first team again.
Against West Ham, he was on the bench. But he never made it onto the pitch, raising more questions about Mourinho's occasionally petty and frequently baffling approach to selections.
4. Does Henrikh Mkhitaryan have a future?
Six changes were made from the Europa League side, the most notable being Mkhitaryan. The Armenian hasn't featured much and craves first-team football, so why rest him?
When he came on for a fading Juan Mata in the 65th minute, Mkhitaryan looked lively again. Is the expensive signing in or out?
5. Any chance of a best 11?
Here's a pub quiz for United fans. What is their best 11?
Mourinho doesn't appear to know. Apart from David de Gea, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, none of the other eight starters against West Ham could be considered guaranteed names on the team-sheet.
Everyone knows Chelsea's best 11. But United head into December and yet their most effective and reliable personnel remains as confusing and frustrating as Mourinho's touchline tantrums.