Monday 22 January 2024

Mourinho:Flames and fire(d)

 Jose Mourinho may be the one I hated the most. He’s just been sacked by Roma, which is news I greeted without glee, but such misfortune befalling him would once have been craved.

The tribal nature of the football fan ensures that grievances and injustices (certainly in the eye of the beholder) are held passionately close to the chest, and for me the swaggering yet snarling manager of the billionaire oligarch team as they indulged in their first rush of riches with the right sociopath for the job was the antidote to lovely Arsene and his comparatively moderate purchases that were the ‘invincibles’ just past. 

Mourinho’s post Carling Cup Final interview of 2007 stands out as the time that my already boiling disgust of him had its lid blown off. In the space where most managers happily reflect on their team having just won a trophy, Mourinho mocked Wenger, whose Arsenal team Chelsea had just beaten 2-1, for never winning any trophies. The interviewer (Gabriel Clarke, I’m guessing) argued “he’s won a few”, to which an affronted Mourinho spat back “Not since I arrive.”

This seemed to be the first case of a manager mocking another manager’s performance. Mourinho’s manner tempted comparisons with Brian Clough, who also criticised his fellow bosses but only ever for the perceived brutality of their teams’ conduct, while Alex Ferguson’s own tirade on Wenger (also after Arsenal had lost 2-1) in March 96-97 centred on the Frenchman’s rejection of Manchester United’s wish to extend the season due to apparent fixture congestion. Ferguson also believed that Wenger should have been focussing more on Ian Wright’s behaviour, this being the game where Wright committed to a two-footed lunge on Peter Schmeichel (this very much an on-pitch feud.)

Mourinho didn’t like it that Wenger kept bringing into question the ‘financial doping’ in evidence at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho said “He [Wenger] loves Chelsea…he’s a voyeur”. Shortly after, Mourinho mentioned that he’d sent an apology to Wenger, who said it must have been sent by horse as he’d never received it. In the next Arsenal-Chelsea match at Highbury, a 2-0 win for the away side, Mourinho strode down the tunnel at full-time without stopping to shake Wenger’s hand. Wenger followed, putting a hand through his hair. 

Wenger had a degree in Economics, Mourinho in psychology. Wenger applied the historic principles of a conservative Arsenal board, while Mourinho embraced the open chequebook of Roman Abramovic, even moaning about having to potentially play 16 year olds if he wanted another marquee signing. In the end he paid the price when Abramovic started buying the players himself, and a parting of the ways came early - and for me, mercifully (good for my blood pressure, good to see a 5-trophy in 3 seasons era come to a close) - in 2007-08. 

Arsenal finished four points off the title winners (United) that same season, but that economical prudence Wenger had been tasked with to see them through the millstone transition from Highbury to The Emirates meant that trophies had still eluded them by the time Mourinho returned to Chelsea in 2014-15. Relations had healed between the now rival managers again, and just before their first meeting back, Mourinho made comments about a manager doing something more important for a club than short-term success. He, Mourinho, said he couldn’t sacrifice himself in such a way because of “my mentality”. 

I was much cheered, but the accord wouldn’t last the season. 







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