Jose Mourinho's Meltdown After Spurs Defeat: Is He Right or Just Downright Ridiculous?
After Manchester United lost 3-0 to Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford to mark their second loss in three Premier League games, Jose Mourinho had a quite lot to say. But it was what he did not say that should also be underlined.
When the reporter at the post-match interview put forward a question on United's centre-back crisis after Phil Jones was hooked for a suspected hamstring injury, Mourinho just laughed silently.
It was deliberate and unnatural as he smirked straight at the camera. He was clearly waiting for the opportunity and it was a message to the Manchester United board and Ed Woodward for their perceived failure to support him in his quest for a new centre-back (more on that later).
Mourinho defends his tactics
To drive the point home about the lack of a centre-back signing, Mourinho had even started Ander Herrera as a third-centreback in a 3-5-1-1 formation - a move that backfired spectacularly in the second half.
The Spanish midfielder - famous for marking specific opponents under Mourinho - chose the wrong moment to stick to a player instead of being in-synch with the defensive line.
While Chris Smalling stepped up to play two Spurs players offside, Herrera's position played them on and the visitors eventually scored to knock the stuffing out of the Red Devils with two goals in as many minutes as the away fans chanted: "You're getting sacked in the morning!"
By the time the full-time whistle had been blown, Spurs, who had looked a bit vulnerable themselves in the first half, had secured all three points and a clean sheet at a ground they had rarely found success.
"From a strategic point of view we didn't lose, from the tactical point of view we didn't lose... But we lost the game." - Mourinho
Come again, Jose?
Playing Herrera (who has played in midfield his entire career) as a defender was his idea. He had four fit centre-backs to choose from but he dropped Eric Bailly from the matchday squad while Victor Lindelof was benched, only to come on for "damage control".
And when United needed a goal to get back into the tie at 2-0 down, who did he bring on? Marcus Rashford was overlooked while poor Anthony Martial wasn't even named in the matchday squad.
Instead, he went for his safety blanket that was Marouane 'Plan B' Fellaini. A midfielder tasked with making his physicality useful in the box but ultimately proved to be inefficient on the night.
The Portuguese manager then praised the fans (especially those at the Stretford End) who applauded the team after the final whistle. But he went a bit further and praised them for not listening to what the media had to say about the team.
"All our fans don't read newspapers, don't watch television. All our fans are more intelligent than that. They answer in a most amazing way. I don't think it's normal for a team to lose at home and respond the way they did." - Mourinho
What's next? Go ballistic like Donald Trump and call out every publication and website as 'Fake News'?
Every journalist is entitled to their opinion of United's successes and failings. Of late, there have been more failings for a club that made winning trophies a habit, a necessity.
Premier League football is not always a bed of roses and Mourinho must understand that he will be praised for positive results and criticised for poor results. And that is nothing personal - unless he makes it so.
If deploying Herrera as a centre-back (after training with that system for a week) was a message to Woodward and the board, it was ill-timed and completely unnecessary.
Instead of working with the squad, Mourinho is busy installing a safety net to ensure that, in the eyes of the fans, he will be seen as the hero who falls on his sword.
The transfer window has been closed for weeks - time to move on?
The Premier League transfer window shut on 9 August this season, a day before the new campaign kicked off. But Mourinho has been its biggest critic and still wonders what could have been had he had a chance to sign a player.
The squad was finalised before their first game and two losses later, the 55-year-old cannot stop harping on the fact that he did not get a centre-back. The remarkable inconsistency of his centre-backs also suggests his coaching is probably not getting through to them.
“No. I don’t know my best back four," Mourinho said in response to a question. "I don't know what Phil Jones has, maybe a hamstring, but we have Smalling, Lindelof and Eric Bailly."
When he was asked whether United were going in the right direction despite the loss or whether they had real problems considering it was the Red Devils' worst start in 25 years, Mourinho chose to focus on the closure of the transfer window instead.
"The market is closed. There is no market until the 1st of January. What I had to say, I've told and I won't say one more word about that." - Mourinho
There have been voices on either side of the debate over whether United should have signed a centre-back or not. Mourinho wanted one but wasn't given the luxury of signing a big name at a big price by Woodward. He was asked to make do with the players he had.
Two of the centre-backs are his signings - Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof - signed for a combined £65.7m. The other two, he inherited - Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. But having dropped both his signings after one poor performance against Brighton, he has no excuses.
If Mourinho is waiting for the January transfer window to sign a defender, that is bad news. Waiting five full months with one eye on the next transfer window and not addressing the inefficacy of his current squad which is there for all to see is troubling.
"He has got to come out of it because I have to say I look at the squad and the team and I'm not sure what the best XI is. He is going to have to back certain players and just stick with it because at the moment they are changing every game.
"The buck stops with the manager, it always does and it has to." - Gary Neville
Having worked with this squad for two years, United look no closer to the finished article. One transfer window certainly would not have fixed that but Mourinho has had four, spending £388.9m (with a net spend of £317m - according to TransferMarkt) in the process. And that isn't even including the free signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
His constant jibes at City for spending much more on players since he and Pep Guardiola arrived in England isn't off the mark but City have also sold well to see their net spend at around £380m. Mourinho can no longer point fingers at the noisy neighbours across town to defend his results.
While United's defence isn't the best, their attack is more than capable of scoring goals at will. So to only point at the board's inability to give Mourinho a new defender as the primary reason for United's failures is to sweep their other problems across the pitch under the carpet.
Alexis Sanchez is yet to get his United career rolling after half a year at the club, Paul Pogba is yet to live up to his once world record transfer fee, and Romelu Lukaku continues to fruustrate his manager despite getting into good positions.
'Respect, respect, respect!'
Mourinho's parting shot saw him resort to his age-old tactic of highlighting the honours he had won in the past.
"What was the score? 3-0. That is three. How many Premier League titles have I won? Three. That is more than the other 19 managers put together. Respect. Respect. RESPECT!" - Mourinho
As the United boss stormed out of the press conference, the assembled journalists couldn't help but laugh. Not because they had their sound bite but because they had seen this sort of behaviour before.
At Chelsea in 2015, Mourinho's third season syndrome struck and the Blues' campaign crashed and burned as the players stopped responding to him. It all started with his treatment of Chelsea physio Eva Carneiro and he has not been the same since.
When the chips are down, Mourinho always goes on the offensive. And what is the point in bringing up past triumphs when you are asked questions about a 3-0 loss at home to Spurs?
Such outbursts were common when he was at Stamford Bridge and we saw a sign of things to come last season after the Red Devils' premature Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.
Unless Mourinho changes his ways and works hard to improve his own players instead of throwing them under the bus (no matter what he says publicly and behind closed doors), there is only one way this ends.
You cannot sack an entire squad after all.