A jaded Jose Mourinho is facing the reality of managing a side being left behind by Manchester City, while the authorities take a blind eye as to why and how
“Beleaguered” is the first word that comes to mind when Jose Mourinho appears on a television screen these days. The joy the Manchester United manager derives from his triumphs, like the midweek win at Juventus, is fleeting because he knows it’s unlikely to last.
After Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad, he looked like a jaded state school teacher, longing to be able to retire but trapped in the system, explaining the same subject, year after year, to a freshly confused intake of students.
Football is difficult. Jose knows this. And he knows that it’s difficult because, in England, Manchester City are untouchable, in more than one sense.
In the week before Sunday’s derby at The Etihad, City faced what they described as an “organised and clear attempt to damage the club’s reputation” when a German news organisation published a detailed investigation into how they allegedly got around UEFA’s “Financial Fair Play” rules.
Yet no one batted an eyelid. The major news organisations all followed up on the story but the reaction was eclipsed by the furore that greeted Jose Mourinho’s cupped-ear gesture to the Juventus fans after United’s 2-1 win in Turin on Tuesday night.
Mourinho didn’t mention FFP during his post-match interview at the Etihad and Sky didn’t bother to ask him. The schedule, fatigue, individual mistakes and the difficulty of facing world-class opposition were all cited, but the possible scandal didn’t merit a mention.
United outplayed in one-sided Manchester derby
His reluctance to make excuses was wise, given that United were well beaten, with the first half embarrassingly one sided. City had 85 percent of the possession in the first 15 minutes and 69 percent overall, while United didn’t manage a single shot on target and barely mounted a coherent attack. They were, however, only 1-0 down at half-time, (thanks to David Silva’s 12th-minute goal) and in their previous six matches United had won three times after going a goal behind, while drawing 2-2 at Chelsea in another.
Three minutes into the second half, however, City carved United apart again. Sergio Aguero played a quick one-two with Riyad Mahrez and scored from an acute angle with a shot that David De Gea might technically have hoped to stop, albeit one that might easily have taken his hands off.
The celebratory “Olés” from City’s fans were slightly premature. On 57 minutes Mourinho sent on Romelu Lukaku for Jesse Lingard and within sixty seconds he’d won a penalty, which Antony Martial converted.
This sent a wave of tension round the Etihad, but it was more because of the memories it triggered of the equivalent fixture last year, when United won 3-2 after being 2-0 down, than because of anything that was actually taking place on the pitch.
City held their nerve, took the heat out of the game and produced an astonishing 44-pass move that culminated in the third and final goal for Ilkay Gundogan, moving them 12 point clear of United, who, Mourinho now concedes, are playing for a place in the top four.
As far as the FFP regulations go, historical precedence suggests City have little to worry about. They may well have become too big to fail. The English football authorities have punished clubs for financial chicanery with points deductions and even relegation, but like the Inland Revenue, they usually only go after easy targets at the bottom of the food chain.
Then, last month, this happened.
The FA will worry about FFP in its own time, but only after it’s cracked down on the scourge of inadequately-sized dressing rooms. And all Jose can do is long for the start of the holidays.