Friday 14th December. From a caff in a retail park. Enough.
Mourinho moaning at a presser. God what a yawn! His joylessness, his deathly narcissism. That ever-present, insulting hostility.
He’s been magnificent, of course – back then. When his energy felt irresistible and young. When his players loved him. When he really was a coach and mentor supreme.
Now he just moans. At an ungrateful universe, at fans, at the media. His contempt for everyone, for their lack of appreciation, is extraordinary. It swirls around him – around those pressers – like a virus. More than anything else, these days, it defines him.
It’s a given that contemporary journo’s are pretty much unable to ask Proper Questions of our elite managers but Mourinho’s brutishness marks a depressing low, on this. He’s out to bully all of us – those who dissent, those who query, those who recognise his tapering, diminishing powers. It’s both fascinatingly pathological and appalling.
Once he had a real, positive presence. He could motivate, in those critical, private moments; pitchside at the training-ground; pre-match. He was coruscating and undeniable – the most proactive coach on the planet. Scorching and soaring; at half-time, re-invigorating, re-ordering if need be.
Now the sense is of something – someone – utterly uncoupled from the will and the heft of those days: a man cruelly, manifestly unable to shape outcomes. Yes, he’ll make those subs; yes he’ll mull darkly and tinker… but nobody’s listening. Or worse – nobody believes. United are drifting and flailing and falling in front of the world.
Distantly, some bathos.
It may be that Jose always secretly wanted to lead United; there may be a touch of melancholy around that? He knew, he felt the weight of all that history.
What if he got to them eight years or so, ago? When he was a great. When the club were ripe for another round of their trademark, lungbursting, emoting glory. When he could have shaped it.
Now, he just can’t. Look at Rashford. Look at Pogba. Look at Mata. Lost, in their different ways. Painfully short. Crying out for skilled, sensitive, inspirational man-management. Lost.
We’re drawn into something inescapably moral, here: riled, provoked. Because United-era Mourinho makes many of us strike out towards something freer, better, more generous. (He’s a symbol, after all). You don’t have to be old-school to want football to break out – philosophically and in practice.
Who cares if we sound like romantic old fools? Imagine Rashford under Redknapp, or Klopp, or anyone with the heart, the soul, the essence, the interests of football coursing through their veins. Imagine being unwilling or unable to unweight that fabulous bundle of talent!
Mourinho appears to be both – appears both reluctant and professionally incapable, now, of both. If things were different, we might be sorry for him. But no. His loss – that descent into irrelevance, impotence – feels directly related to his own, sullen withdrawal. In a cruel universe, Jose is suddenly deservedly feeble.
The coach can’t play but he – she – builds the environment, makes the whole bigger and the individual better. Mourinho’s blunted bravado kids no more: he’s a coach who can’t or doesn’t want to coach, preferring instead to count down the days to salvation – to the next ‘window’.
Things are brutal. United are beyond flawed, beyond what is acceptable. It’s gone.
The manager may get yet another major job – who knows? But this club (and arguably football) don’t need him; not anymore. He should have gone some time ago.