Jose Mourinho delivered one of his most eyebrow raising press conferences yet, but is the special one losing his marbles? Or is he back to his best?
The tempestuous relationship between Jose Mourinho and the English media took another bizarre turn following United’s defeat to Sevilla in the last 16 of the Champions League. A tie on paper that a Mourinho team were expected to win and find themselves in the last eight of Europe’s leading competition.
In an outlandish move, Mourinho’s first line of defence for the defeat came post-match when he felt the need to remind the United fans that he had previously knocked the club out with two different teams of his own at this stage of the competition.
“I sit in this chair with Porto, Man United out. I sit in this chair with Real Madrid, Man United out… So I don’t think it’s something new for the club. Of course, being Manchester United manager and losing a Champions League tie at home is a delusion obviously.”
This led to an air of expectation heading into the pre-match Brighton press conference that only Jose can provide. The team was out. He has started the game with both Marouane Fellaini and Nemanja Matic as holding midfielders. A negative approach in a must win game, that ultimately cost United as they were dumped out.
‘Jose is the centre of the storm, but Jose welcomes that. It is where he feels most comfortable.’
Jose is a master of deflection, and the press conference that followed is his best in front of the media for many years. He entered and subtly reminded everybody, “Hello, I’m alive. I’m here.”
Suddenly, the press conference is all about Jose – and deflects the attention away from his players and their poor performance. He dismissed the Sevilla defeat as a defeat, and no more than that, and reiterates the need to forget it.
He then goes on to speak of ‘Football Heritage’ and brings up the record of Manchester United in recent years. “There is something that I used to call ‘football heritage’. I don’t know if, I try to translate from my Portuguese, which is almost perfect, to my English, which is far from perfect, ‘football heritage’, what a manager inherits.”
“It is something like the last time Manchester United won the Champions League, which didn’t happen a lot of times, was in 2008. Since 2011: 2012, out in the group phase, the group was almost the same group we had this season. Out in the group phase.
“In 2013, out at Old Trafford in the last 16, I was on the other bench. In 2014, out in the quarter-final. In 2015, no European football. In 2016, comes back to European football, out in the group phase, goes to Europa League and on the second knockout out of the Europa League. In 2017, play Europa League, win Europa League – with me – and goes back to Champions League. In 2018, win the group phase with 15 points out of a possible 18 and loses at home in the last 16.” The limelight has switched entirely now from the performance to this press conference, as Jose’s comments are so outlandish that every press room in the country is quickly running then story of the press conference, directing traffic away from the Sevilla result.
In true Mourinho fashion, he cannot resist a swing at the pundits and delivers a scathing attack on those criticising his team. “The fans, they read what people write, they listen what people say and the people that write,” he said. “The people that say are people with a lot of ideas and I used to call them idealists or idiots. They can be both.
“In my dictionary, the dictionary of life, a person with a lot of ideas can be an ideologist or an idiot. The people, they listen to the ideologists and they also listen to the idiots. That’s life.”
So, Mourinho has completely blown the Sevilla game out of memory of the press and suddenly the players who performed poorly are out of the limelight. They are protected, as Jose is the centre of the storm, but Jose welcomes that. It is where he feels most comfortable.
United ran out comfortable 2-0 winners against Brighton in the following game, so Mouriho’s deflection tactics have worked. No hangover, a win and into the semi-finals of the FA Cup, and suddenly Sevilla feels like a lifetime ago, this is Mourinho’s football heritage.