Jose Mourinho wants Manchester United respect? He should practise what he preaches
Somewhere, caught between the anger and the frustration he displayed in the media suite at Old Trafford on Monday night, Jose Mourinho made a lot of sense.
Manchester United had been better than Tottenham for 50 minutes. At one point during the first half he turned to his bench holding up three fingers to illustrate the three chances missed by Romelu Lukaku. Harry Kane had one opportunity all night and scored.
He was right, too, to point out the difficulty in balancing results with performances. In a perfect world, United supporters want to watch a team winning games while employing attacking, expansive football. Mourinho appeared to ask -- if you cannot have both -- which is more important? It is a valid argument, but it also a problem that comes with being United manager.
There were, however, other parts of his outburst that do not sit so well. He left his media conference demanding more respect.
So, let's talk about respect.
He was asking reporters to show more respect for his own achievements and specifically the three Premier League titles he won with Chelsea. Again, he is right that, of the other 19 managers in the league, Pep Guardiola has one and Manuel Pellegrini has one. In his mind the score is 3-2 -- although it does ignore the fact that Arsene Wenger also won three, a manager Mourinho himself branded a "specialist in failure." Not much respect there.
There has not been much respect for his own players, either.
The summer tour of the U.S. began at UCLA in July with an under-arm question about Paul Pogba. Instead of replying that it would be fantastic to welcome back a world champion to Carrington, Mourinho's answer turned into a criticism.
"It's about him understanding why he was so good, especially in the second part of the competition," the Portuguese said.
It set the tone for the summer.
Mourinho added a £47 million midfielder -- it is understood Fred was his top target -- to a squad that finished second last season.
But asked, again in L.A., about whether his team was good enough to challenge for the title, he refused to answer.
"I do not answer your question," he replied, stony-faced.
Pushed at subsequent news conferences in the U.S. and at Brighton whether United would be among the title challengers this season, he would only say: "You will see in November."
At Carrington on Friday ahead of Tottenham's visit to Old Trafford, he was asked specifically whether he was "content" with his players. "You know my answer," was his reply.
It was hardly a ringing endorsement and not a lot of respect shown for a squad that includes some of the best players in the world and nearly £350 million worth of his own signings -- plus Alexis Sanchez, who arrived in a swap deal with Arsenal's Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Other managers have taken a different path. Pep Guardiola insisted he was "not disappointed" when Jorginho chose Chelsea instead of Manchester City before talking up the rest of the midfielders at his disposal.
Tottenham became the first Premier League team to fail to make a summer signing since the transfer window was introduced in 2003, yet Mauricio Pochettino still promised improvement this season.
"We are going to be better," he said on deadline day. "No doubt about that."
Mourinho's news conference on deadline day included the line that his team faced a "difficult season" if a new signing -- understood to be a centre-back -- did not arrive.
If results are anything to go by, Tottenham have improved, collecting nine points from their first three games compared to four from the same period last season.
Meanwhile, Mourinho's dire warning has begun to come true -- United have started with two defeats from their first three league games for the first time since 1992.
Maybe the discourse and the results are related. Maybe not. It is, however, hard for players to make themselves immune from the swirl of negativity that has engulfed the club for the last six weeks -- almost all at Mourinho's own doing.
Monday night was Mourinho in self-defence mode. Before bringing up his three Premier League titles, he insisted that "by the strategic point of view we didn't lose, by the tactical point of view we didn't lose."
He may as well have said he won the game on the tactics board but it was during the players' execution of the plan that it all went wrong. It came eight days after blaming the defeat to Brighton on "big mistakes."
It is also noteworthy that after a 2-1 defeat to Leicester in his final days as Chelsea manager three years ago, he was saying something similar.
"I worked four days in training for this match," he said in December 2015.
"I identified four movements where Leicester score a lot of their goals and in two of the four situations I identified they scored their goals. I went through it all with the players, you can ask them."
The over-riding theme is: "Your fault, not mine."
There is a growing feeling around Old Trafford that much of the negativity surrounding United has been self-inflicted.
Words do not win games, but a summer that could have been spun into a positive has been billed by Mourinho as an unmitigated disaster. Consequently, his squad look like they are struggling to find the confidence to escape what has now become a worrying downward spiral.
Rather than three fingers, Mourinho has seemingly spent the last month-and-a-half holding up two fingers at his players. Forget three titles, Mourinho would do well to focus his energy on getting the next three points.