He is the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ but has Jose Mourinho lost his touch?
Mourinho dazzled when he first set foot inside Stamford Bridge in 2004 – famously saying: “I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one” after guiding Porto to a remarkable Champions League triumph just weeks earlier.
That name stuck as former Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid boss Mourinho – the walking headline – re-wrote footballing heritage, establishing himself as a managerial juggernaut with trophies in England, Italy and Spain.
His success came with controversy. It was part of the baggage, which often captivated the English media in particular.
But fast forward to 2018 and Mourinho is no longer looking like the ‘Special One’ in a world engrossed with arch-nemesis Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City entertainers.
Already 16 points behind Premier League champions-elect City, the Champions League loomed as the next-best way to get one over their neighbours but that plan fell by the wayside – sensationally eliminated by Sevilla in the round of 16.
And that is when cracks started to appear – a defiant Mourinho quickly highlighting United’s previous European failings in a bid to distance himself from Tuesday’s shock exit at Old Trafford, where victories over Chelsea and Liverpool had previously boosted confidence and renewed belief.
Mourinho, linked with Paris Saint-Germain before signing a timely contract extension in January, was nonchalant in his reaction.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 16, 2018
“I sat in this chair twice in the Champions League and I knocked out Manchester United at Old Trafford – with Porto and Real Madrid – so I don’t think it’s something new for the club,” the Portuguese told reporters.
Then there was his epic 12-minute monologue in the build up to United’s FA Cup quarter-final against Brighton and Hove Albion.
In front of a packed pre-game news conference, Mourinho came out swinging on Friday, reminding reporters and fans of United’s Champions League failings… at length, while also pointing out City’s recent Premier League success and the quality Guardiola inherited following his arrival in 2016.
United players were spared any criticism prior to Saturday’s clash as Mourinho launched an impassioned defence of his tenure.
But Luke Shaw and Co. were in the firing line, even after United booked their spot in the semi-finals with a 2-0 victory.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 18, 2018
Mourinho delivered a stinging criticism of Shaw after the out-of-favour left-back was hauled off at half-time, while the 55-year-old also accused his players of being scared, with their mentality questioned.
It is all a far cry from Mourinho’s glowing endorsement of his squad at the start of the season, when he described the current United team – which delivered Europa League and EFL Cup silverware last term – as his favourite ever prior to August’s 4-0 rout of West Ham.
But it does sound eerily similar to when Mourinho slammed the Chelsea squad before he was dismissed in 2015 – the Premier League and Champions League-winning manager claiming he felt “betrayed” following a 2-1 loss to eventual champions Leicester City.
That proved to be the end of Mourinho at Chelsea – who were 16th and only a point above the relegation zone at the time just seven months after winning the title – closing the curtain on a strained relationship between a manager and his squad.
Mourinho also experienced an unhappy demise at Madrid and with fans already divided over his nullifying style of football, which has negated the impact of marquee men Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez, the maligned manager’s marriage with United could be heading for divorce.
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