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Opinion: Jose Mourinho's infamous third season syndrome explained

Aritro Sarkar
948   //    21 Aug 2018, 18:35 IST

Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United - Premier League
The Special One

In football there exists a concept called the second season syndrome, and till date this phenomenon has taken hordes of teams and individuals as victims. The reason behind the continued prevalence of the second season syndrome isn't complex - the success of a particular season often leaves behind no motivation to succeed further.

More importantly, on some occasions the success gets to the heads of the players and other influential members of a team. This decreased motivation, coupled with a sense of complacency creeps in, often leaving teams in no position to emulate the successes of the previous season.

But the second season syndrome applies to the ordinary ones. If you're a Special One, the rules cannot be the same for you. Hence, the Special Ones have devised their own season of doom - the third season.

Off the top of this writer's head, the only person of note who has conveniently christened himself as a Special One is Jose Mourinho.

Manchester United v Leicester City - Premier League
Pogba and Mourinho are reportedly at loggerheads

The ever modest Portuguese has throughout his career been lauded for his innumerable victories at FC Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid. Football has become a results driven business, and few have quite mastered this as well as the current Manchester United boss.

However, despite the silverware his teams lift, his tenure almost always ends in acrimonious fashion - during his third year in charge. Ever since he was sacked at Chelsea midway through his fourth season, Jose has never lasted for more than three years at a club.

While this may not bother a team like Chelsea, or Real Madrid or Inter Milan even, it certainly looks out of place at Manchester United. After all, The Red Devils had Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm for the better part of three decades.

This brings up the question, where does it all go wrong each time for Jose Mourinho?

The reason why Mourinho's candle burns brightly but briefly, is pretty evident - there is absolutely no long-term thinking involved if he is at a club. Granted, football is a results driven business, but the best do not buy their way to success, they develop.

Leicester City v Chelsea - Premier League
Mourinho and Hazard reportedly had a falling out at Chelsea

There is always an eye on the future, otherwise Pep Guardiola wouldn't give Phil Foden so much game time, and neither would Dominic Solanke play so regularly under Jurgen Klopp for Manchester City and Liverpool respectively.

Mourinho's demands on defensive solidity, and his unwavering insistence that attacking players occupy defensive positions doesn't help either. The constant sprinting and the amount of concentration required to be able to pull this off really takes a toll on players.

Eden Hazard is a great example. In the 2014-15 season, when Chelsea lifted the Premier League title, Hazard was in the form of his life. His attacking prowess kept going from strength to strength, and this newfound industrious streak which he acquired under Mourinho helped him add yet another feather to his ever-burgeoning hat.

The very next year however, fatigue caught up with the Belgian, and indeed the entire Chelsea squad. Hazard who had won Player of the Year the previous season, scored just 4 times as defending champions Chelsea limped to an astonishing 10th place finish.

2011 World Football Challenge Press Conference
Mourinho infamously clashed with top players like Casillas at Real Madrid

But fatigue is a factor that all teams have to take into consideration, so why don't we ask these questions to Guardiola or Klopp, and why is it that Mourinho teams are especially susceptible to a phenomenon that is natural in any draining sport?

The answer is simple - it's not just the bodily fatigue his teams have to deal with, there's also the mental fatigue. This has marred almost each and every one of his teams, and that has to do with his methods.

Mourinho's favourite motivation tool is the siege mentality, where he successfully whips up the slightest unpopular opinion against his teams to establish the idea among his players that nobody quite likes them.

This apparent unpopularity of his teams should be all the more reason, he believes, for his players to prove all the naysayers wrong by emerging victorious. It has worked wonders for him and his resume - he has won the league in every country where he has coached.

Crystal Palace v Chelsea
Mourinho has famously had disagrements with the board at Chelsea in the past

But in the long run, the siege mentality strategy never quite works out. With time, it gives way to a rather toxic dressing room atmosphere which hampers performances. Mourinho tends to get under the skin of his players, but unwittingly digs his own grave in the process.

Manchester United's approach to this season has been a typical Jose Mourinho third season - lack of transfer activity, a grumbling coach, and a topsy-turvy pre-season.

This is not to declare that this season will be an absolute disaster for United, but with each week, it seems increasingly likely. Last week's collapse against Brighton & Hove Albion did The Red Devils no favours.

There is something intrinsically wrong in Mourinho's methods, and this fundamental flaw in his footballing approach is being found out with increasing frequency as his career progresses. The Midas' touch is lost.

The Special One has lost his specialty, and it's time he accepts it.

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