He did it yet again! Even more so, he has done it with a style. Mourinho can now utterly claim to have shaken the impenetrable shadows, the cloud of impotence that stroke him and his team following the “Sevilla-fiasco”, which saw them kicked out of the Champions league some weeks ago. The defeat marked a turning point, a watershed yet again in his undoubtedly not unsuccessful managerial career. It raised those uncomfortable questions, those questions no one likes asking, and no one likes them being asked about oneself: the questions of whether it was the beginning of the end of his reign in Man U; of whether he now has forgotten the winning styles, those winning styles that are unique to him and him alone, of whether he is now drained of the hunger, the propelling desire, the inextinguishable thirst for winning, etc. True, against Sevilla, Man U played with no or, if any, very little ambition, as though they were street playing-boys; indeed, they played with no purposes, which is very uncharacteristic of the man known for his determination and eagerness to be victorious. After all, he is the self-proclaimed Special One.
These shadows seemed to have been haunting them since then. In sharp contrast, however, the aim for yesterday’s day game against City was clear enough: a victory to prevent the host, the Champions elect from celebrating that soon. A victory to spoil the effervescence, the euphoria of their admittedly impressive campaign. A victory to hinder their would-be record-breaking successful seasons. Now, if victory was impossible if the host team turned out to be unbeatable—as they have been so far, then a mere draw, however it turns out to be, would do. A defeat was to be avoided at all costs.
Yet, the first half was more than a disaster. It was the very opposite of the self-appointed objectives. Man U did just the very opposite of what they were supposed to do in order to spoil City’s well-disserved crowning. And the results are well-known: two goals with no reply. In fact, the first half was an almost a “one-man-show” game, whereby City determined the pace of the game to prove that they are the master of the Premier League—at least so far—and their guests had no choice but to play according to their rhythms: they were the rule-makers, the game-deciders, and Man U the abiders; they acted for Man U to react.
Then came half-time. It was needed for Mourinho and his players. Before the game he has stated his eagerness to postpone the crowing of his arch-rival at this early stage of the season—it was a personal, a managerial rivalry as it was a club-to-club rivalry. A victory against City would not, by any measure, have been as dramatic as that against Liverpool in 2014, which left the latter helpless and speechless, as the title slipped away from their very eyes, but it would be important enough to defy City’s sense of invulnerability. And thus Mourinho message to his players was crystal clear: our aim for the game is to postpone their crowning with a victory or, at least, with a draw. A defeat is not an option. You do not want to be those clowns, at the end of the game, standing there while they are being crowned, he said.
The reaction, as Smalling puts, was to play “for our pride”. The second half was a turnabout, a making of history, and—for City and their fans—a feast-spoiler! And now they have to wait for that moment to be crowned champions. City will be champion—that is certain enough—but Mourinho’s United will keep them waiting for some weeks to come. A delayed festivity is surely a spoiled celebration; once again Mourinho has been the pooper!
Hate him if you like, detest him if you wish, but you cannot ignore him, for he is a winner, a decider, indeed, a game changer from the touchlines.