Wherever Jose Mourinho goes a circus follows. He must love the drama because he always manages to create it somehow.
His 17 months as Manchester United manager have been fairly uneventful off the pitch, though. While he won two trophies and secured Champions League qualification in his first season at the club, there was nothing like the off field fuss that he courted at Chelsea and Real Madrid.
There has been the odd sending off to the stands, most recently for stepping a good centimetre or two on to the pitch in United’s win over Southampton, but in terms of his relationship with the club, they have been enjoying a honeymoon period.
A few months ago, Mourinho claimed his relationship with the club was beyond merely professional, rather “a relation of trust and a relation that goes further than the contract, the manager, the owner, the board”.
— MailOnline Sport (@MailSport) October 14, 2017
However, events of the past week have seen Mourinho revert to type, following the bizarre overreaction from some sections of the media to United’s 0-0 draw at Anfield. He was called the “enemy of football” by some after playing United’s fiercest rivals Liverpool with some of his most important players injured.
When you consider that Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who score for fun every week, are only two points better off than United with a goal different better by six (essentially thanks to their 6-0 win over Watford), it’s hard to work out why Mourinho was on the receiving end of so much stick.
Regardless, possibly keen to take attention of himself, Mourinho’s mouthpiece in the media, Duncan Castles, wrote an article discussing the manager’s frustration with Ed Woodward.
José Mourinho telling French TV he’s sure he won’t end his career at Manchester United https://t.co/gF0cqMv34q
— Kaveh Solhekol (@SkyKaveh) October 15, 2017
It’s hard to pin down exactly what Mourinho’s apparent discontent arises from, other than him being less than impressed with Woodward’s “handling of the club”. He reportedly wishes United would match the spending on their rivals, after being outspent by City for a third year on the bounce, and is fed up with the unnecessarily bureaucratic and inefficient organisation at the club.
This article was published a day after Mourinho gave an interview with French television channel TF1 where he revealed he had no intention of seeing out his career at United. This surely couldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone, given he never spends longer than three years at a club and is nowhere near to retiring, but it was an unnecessarily negative statement to make.
“I do not think – I am sure – that I will not finish my career here,” he said.
Having previously suggested he could spend the next 15 years at United, this is quite a step back.
Mourinho also flirted with PSG, claiming there was something special about the Parisian club. “Magic, quality, youth, it’s fantastic,” he said.
The manager doesn’t ever make off the cuff remarks. He’s not casual or sloppy with his words. He knows what he’s saying and why he’s saying it.
At a time when everything is going well for him at United, other than him unable to match the style and results Guardiola is managing with City, it begs the question why he wants to throw a spanner in the works.
Maybe he genuinely is frustrated with Woodward and wants to put pressure on the club to give him his own way. Maybe he wants a new and improved contract. Or maybe he wanted to spend Tuesday’s press conference, ahead of United’s Champions League game against Benfica, discussing something other than the 0-0 draw against Liverpool.
“I’m not signing a new five-year contract and I’m not leaving for PSG,” Mourinho told the press in Portugal.
He was quick to downplay suggestions that he was thinking about leaving United and accused the media of twisting his words. Everything is always very innocent where Mourinho is concerned. If you took his words to mean one thing, then that is your choice, and not something he can be blamed for.
“Nothing is happening, I’m not signing a new five-year contract, I’m at Manchester United, I have a contract and that’s it,” he continued.
“I have my contract that ends in June 2019, we are in October 2017, so I don’t know what to say.
The only thing that I said and is true, and there was not misinterpretation of my words, is I am not going to end my career at Manchester United.
“And I ask how is it possible in modern football that a manager is going to last 15 or 20 years? If in this moment I want to finish my career in four or five years my ambition would be to end my career at Manchester United. I think I’m going to be here 15 years minimum in the job and I think it’s impossible to stay 17 years in the same club even if you want, even if you try.”
Mourinho has received the attention he craves and has distracted people from talking about Anfield, so he’s happy.
He likely cares little what people say about the way achieves success anyway, as long as he achieves it, and will be happy to refer back to that point against Liverpool at the end of the season if it helped win his team the title.
Yet this little charade over the past few days all seems very unnecessary. The club has supported Mourinho in the transfer window, with Ivan Perišić the only failed target, yet his absence has seen Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford enjoy a great start to the season.
United fans can assume this is just a blip and not the beginning of the end for the manager, and they will likely be right.
Yet this is a perfect reminder of what the manager is capable of and they shouldn’t be fooled in to thinking Mourinho will ever put any love for a club before the love he has for himself.