It really didn’t take long for José Mourinho’s mask to slip at Manchester United.
As soon as things have started to go even the slightest bit wrong, the shameless self-defender in the manager has come rushing back to the fore.
It’s Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s fault for the Man City defeat, not his for misjudging the situation and picking them in the first place.
It’s Luke Shaw’s fault they lost at Watford – nothing to do with a team selection that, through weakness or stubbornness, saw Mourinho play an out-of-form Wayne Rooney in midfield, a position he swore he would never put the captain in only a few months previously.
Including the Feyenoord loss, it’s also three matches in a row that have apparently been decided by poor refereeing.
The sense of invulnerability that Mourinho sought to create from the very second he bemusedly pouted his way through his very first press conference and photo shoot, that’s all gone. This team has to be picked up all over again because nobody is scared of them, and nobody is scared of José.
It’s always been the José way to throw anyone and everyone under the bus, never acknowledging his own shortcomings – and the fact that this is happening so soon into his time at Man United should worry the club greatly.
His treatment of Bastian Schweinteiger was, luckily for him, not met with the supporter derision it could have been, but picking on Luke Shaw has, according to the Times this morning, upset a few of the senior players. There’s a certain “Eva Carneiro” feel to this already.
One would think by now that Mourinho would have learned to do things differently. A man who has been sacked from two of his last four managerial appointments (and Real Madrid weren’t exactly sorry to see him go either) must surely accept at some point that maybe he is the problem, not everyone else.
Of course, this is nowhere near as bad as Mourinho’s last few days and weeks at Chelsea (yet), but it has the potential to escalate at a much faster rate.
Even at his worst moments at Stamford Bridge, the manager could point to the support he was receiving in the stands but that is a luxury he will not be afforded at his current club. The fans have little to no affinity towards him – how could they when they have spent over a decade hating him – many in fact are still markedly uneasy that he is their manager, but they are going along with this deal with the devil on the proviso that it yields some much-needed success.
And that’s part of the problem. This whole exercise of Man United hiring Mourinho, a man who neither Bobby Charlton nor Alex Ferguson want at the club, is so utterly joyless until (or, indeed, if) the trophies are being lifted.
A running theme from Mourinho’s appointment – on social media at least – was one of delight that he “would make everyone hate Manchester United again.” Why is that important? What correlation so exists between hatred of a club and success that a support base is yearning for it?
If anything it shows a remarkable inferiority complex, and a club of Man United’s historical stature deserves far better than hatred being the only acknowledgement of its achievements.
Rival fans might not have liked the Alex Ferguson teams but they certainly respected them – hatred without respect is not “jealousy,” and no fans should want that for their club.
It might have been different had they hired someone like Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp, someone with whom they can enjoy the ride, but they’ve hired a crass self-promoter, who is only there because Man United are the only club left who can satisfy his monstrous ego, and they now have to pretend that they’re happy to go along with it.
Only the most optimistic of Man United fans had completely forgotten about Mourinho’s spectacular implosion last season, and even they must be slightly worried about what they are seeing now. His reputation, both personal and professional, is the lowest it’s been for some time and his propensity for petulantly lashing out and making it everyone else’s fault is going to cost him.
Man United should hope, for the sake of their season, that things start to improve again rapidly, because Mourinho is the last manager you want when things are going badly.
His team looked lost against Watford on Sunday. Such results are explainable in isolation – after all, Barcelona lost 2-1 at home to Alavés last week, these things happen – but coming off the back of two previous poor results, it suggests a wider issue.
Excluding the Community Shield (which is just a glorified friendly), Mourinho has managed Man United in six competitive games – half of which they have lost. At no point so far in his reign have they played as well than as badly as they did at Vicarage Road, or in the first half at Old Trafford against Man City.
This is not yet a crisis, but let’s not pretend it’s going well either.
All of that being said, it’s still way too early to properly assess this, and this could just be a speed bump on José’s rocky road to redemption, but there are hints that last season’s meltdown from Mourinho may not have been the blip that Man United were hoping it was.
The manager now has some big decisions to ponder over in the next few days – not least of his captain and of himself – because as soon as they have been challenged properly so far, they have wilted under the pressure – and he has responded by reverting to self-serving type.