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The paranoia of Mourinho: the new King Lear?


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“I am a man more sinned against than sinning.” – King Lear, William Shakespeare

Jose Mourinho is descending into the madness of Lear in a way that is as much comic as tragic. "If we win, we win together - if we lose, I lose alone," Jose is said to have told his players after the Champions Leage exit to Sevilla. He and Nemanja Matic currently form the smallest archipelago known to man, cast adrift among those that just don't get it.

The Sevilla result and subsequent paranoid ramble have exposed the Portuguese in a way that is late Mourinho in essence. The man whom clubs have indulged like no other - he was the first manager to spend over £1bn in transfer fees - now feels cheapened by association with players that he can seemingly no longer entrance with his svengali-like skills. Where once he was once awestruck by the achievements of Manchester United, Jose now feels well-placed to discredit the club's European 'heritage'. A penny for Sir Alex Ferguson's thoughts - a man so wary of the club's heritage under Sir Matt Busby and Jimmy Murphy, that he tended towards seeing himself as a custodian of something greater than himself. But at each club, we have seen that all that matters to Jose is Jose, so it is not so much surprising as tiresome when a week like the last comes to pass. 

In the late Mourinho era, the foibles of his early management - the barbs at other coaches, siege mentality and 'confrontational leadership' approach - have weakened to the point of impotence. Where there was a wry smile, there is now an eye roll. It is the last of those three tenets that best encapsulates the man and the coach, because it is as disagreeable as it is unfalsifiable.

The concept is simple: identify a player who is under-performing or not adept with the playing system and requirements of a dogged Mourinho side. Regardless of what man-management approach may prove best for that player, target them publicly and castigate them where possible with ritual substitution or jibes in the press. Rinse and repeat until the player has become disenfranchised, and the manager can claim success in identifying a player too weak to thrive, or someone so down on professional pride that they have no choice to confront his egotism with hard-bitten professional pride. The system works.

But the system is no longer working. The short, sharp shock has to coincide with initial success - the likes of which the coach could feasibly claim with two trophies last time out. But those particular trinkets are not entirely satisfactory to Manchester United executives.  More importantly, they should not be sating players either. The likes of David de Gea, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial have sights set higher, regardless of how relatively poorly some may have performed of late. For the manager to then descend into a media performance that might make Messrs Benitez and Keegan sharply intake breath - well, it doesn't help.

Mourinho's philosophical crisis has been thrown into even starker relief when - despite the relative paucity of silverware - rivals like Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino are praised for their playing style, coaching ability and man management. That is leaving aside the spectre of Pep.

We are all too savvy to write Jose's obituary just yet. But the paranoia, the public castigations and the press briefings indicate a post-contract Mourinho who wants to breathe fire over the cornfields, but has realised his lungs are not what they were. The man who feels more sinned against than sinning is not raging against the dying of the light, as lashing out in any which way he can.


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