Chris Lakey: Jose Mourinho is losing the fight with Manchester's strongman
We have an issue with the TVs in our office (First World problems, I know).
The picture is fuzzy and it’s hard to make out what’s happening.
Which is almost perfectly relevant given it describes Manchester United’s game at Brighton or, to be precise, what Jose Mourinho is doing to the club.
I refuse to be one of the people who use social media to vent their spleen with a litany of obscenities, but I could almost forgive any United fan for letting rip at their manager. Yes, it’s wrong, but Mourinho looks like he is strangling that club.
Clearly I am like millions of others – I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors at football clubs, but I’ve seen the footage of Pep Guardiola training Manchester City on their way to the Premier League title last year and I would be hugely surprised if the two Manchester managers are not chalk and cheese when it comes to dealing with players.
Guardiola looks like a man who knows how to prise even more that he is entitled to out of brilliant footballers who, as far as we are concerned, look like they are already playing out of their skins. Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero dazzle us week in, week out, yet their manager coaxes them to do more.
The behind-the-scenes stuff on City is on Amazon Prime’s All Or Nothing, which focuses on last season’s title win. Please, Manchester United, release any footage you have of Mourinho and let us compare.
Guardiola gets a new tune out of his orchestra of superstars every week and already the signs are there that this season’s Premier League is going to be all about who can get closest to City.
Do that to a squad and you are on to a winner.
Now pop over to Old Trafford and pick up the film from the cutting room floor and piece together Mourinho’s show reel.
It looks like it will show us an angry manager – angry at his players, at the media, at other clubs, at other managers, at his CEO, at everyone in his eye line.
This is a man who has been given tens of millions to turn great players into average players. It’s like the Midas touch in reverse: he gets gold and turns it into turkey.
What has he done to Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Alexis Sanchez, Luke Shaw, and more?
Sanchez went to Old Trafford in a wave of publicity and has show hardly anything of his Arsenal form in 13 games. I watched (at home, TV is fine there) his performance against Leicester and he was (in social media speak) awful. Hardly had a decent touch.
This isn’t the Alexis Sanchez United fans thought they’d signed.
Martial? Shadow of the player who burst on to the scene in 2015. The 22-year-old should be ripping it up. Instead, he looks about as cheesed off as Mourinho.
Pogba? Don’t even go there.
I did expect to see the Special One as a very animated character on the touchline, but he’s like a statue compared to many – he hardly moves, hardly encourages – he looks like he hardly knows what to do.
Of course, it is not all about Mourinho, the players must bear some responsibility, but I’d hazard a guess there are half a dozen there who’d rather be playing for someone else. He’s annoyed the hell out of Shaw who, had he been fit, would have been a World Cup possible. Shaw has suffered public humiliation from his manager – now he seems to want to fight for his United place just to he can stick two fingers to Mourinho.
I had always harboured the notion that a squad of great players could be sent out on to the pitch without instruction: that if you were the boss of Barcelona at their height, you’d just say, ‘ok, lads, got and do what you do best’. That if you had one of the Liverpool team of old - Hansen, Thompson, Dalglish, McDermott, Souness – you could just say, ‘sort it out yourselves’.
A team with Pogba, Sanchez, De Gea, Rashford, Lukaku, Lingard in it should be the same.
Guardiola is proving my theory is absolute rubbish – Mourinho is proving that it’d probably work better that way for Manchester United.
Couple of things I need to get off my chest about the pink dressing room walls in Norwich City’s away dressing room.
First off: what’s the issue?
I know Iwan Roberts thinks it’s pretty much a waste of time, but he’s coming at it from a player’s point of view. Iwan knows what effect pink walls have on a footballer. Or wet dressing room floors, cold showers and general filth. Been there, seen it, done it, as they say.
But from a non-player’s point of view it seems to be about the image portrayed by the story – and what a great story it is, as evidenced by the fact it has gone worldwide – which doesn’t show City in a particularly good light. Shame, really, because it exposes some of our prejudices and weak spots.
What if the dressing rooms were painted anything but pink? The reaction would not have been the same had they been magenta. Purple perhaps. Maybe a nice blue? Many of those laughing at the club are doing so because pink suggests something different to them. But for goodness sake, it is only a colour.
Are the offended fans ones who think pink belittles their team – or are they annoyed that City have decided to resort to a deliberate act (choosing a colour) to undermine the opposition (apparently pink lowers the opposition’s testosterone levels)?
And if that’s true, well, it might be an advantage City. If it doesn’t, then nothing ventured, nothing gained.
And to the home dressing room - it’s nicer, much nicer. Someone has designed it so it suits the home players. Arsene Wenger did it at The Emirates – I’ve been in it and their dressing room makes City’s look like a hovel. The table is low – the one in the away dressing room higher... so players can’t see each other when they are talking. Arsenal’s is shaped so Wenger didn’t have to raise his voice – they could all hear. At Middlesbrough the away dressing room is L-shaped _ so they can’t all see and hear each other.
Frankly, none of it matters. Players will go out and do what they do, pink walls or not. Do the City players care? Nah. Does Daniel Farke care? Nah. Do opponents care? Doubt it. Nor should we.