That hypocrite smokes two packs a day
It is now four days since Jose Mourinho’s message about “football heritage” and Manchester United, which itself came two days after United were knocked out of the Champions League by a team now 14 points off the top four in La Liga.
In those four days, Mourinho’s chief lickspittle Duncan Castles has been composing the defence. On Tuesday, courtesy of his column for Arabnews.com, the defence is mounted. It is, as you would expect, spectacularly one-eyed.
‘Manchester United are second in the Premier League, on course for their highest finish and points total in England’s top tier since Sir Alex Ferguson retired five years ago. In the 20 months since Jose Mourinho took charge of his first competitive fixture as manager United have won two major trophies.’
It’s wonderful to start on something we can all agree. Mourinho has achieved better results on the pitch as Manchester United manager than David Moyes and Louis van Gaal did. Whoop.
‘United’s thoroughly disappointing Champions League exit to Sevilla offered an opportunity to Mourinho’s critics to claim he should be sacked. When Mourinho sought to put United’s progress under his management into context, when the Portuguese delivered a detailed explanation of “the process” involved in restoring the club’s domestic and European fortunes, he was attacked again.
‘Should there be surprise that some of those advocating Mourinho’s dismissal prefer to critique the length of time he spoke for rather than the information and analysis contained in his words? Not really. It is just another angle of attack — if you cannot play the ball, play the man.’
Now this really is peak Castles. Mourinho’s 12-minute rant was described that way for reasons of brevity. It was a description, not an insult. Mourinho was also criticised for his ludicrous assessment that “football heritage” was an excuse for United’s Champions League exit to Sevilla, which is what most focused on.
For Castles to accuse those who described a 12-minute rant as a “12-minute rant” of ‘playing the man not the ball’, namely using your own hardwired agenda on a subject to guide your opinion, might just be the most wonderful piece of hypocrisy Mediawatch has witnessed. It almost makes you want to stand and applaud (for 12 minutes).
‘A coach who won the Spanish title with a record number of goals, victories and points against a Barcelona team that some of his critics have argued is the game’s greatest ever is decried for a failure to entertain’ – Duncan Castles, Arabnews.com.
This might be difficult for Castles to understand, but Mediawatch believes that Mourinho is being criticised for failing to entertain with Manchester United now rather than then with Real Madrid because he is failing to entertain with Manchester United now rather than then with Real Madrid. What on earth has the Spanish title (won six years ago, remember) got to do with Manchester United? And why would the supporters unhappy at the entertainment on offer use that title as a defence of Mourinho now?
But if Castles really does want to bring up Spain, let’s go with it. If Mourinho demonstrated in 2012 that he could win with attacking football in Spain against a Guardiola-managed Barcelona, that provides more ammunition for the criticism that he is failing to do it now at the richest club in the world. It rather lends credence to the claim that he has lost his lustre in the last six years. Which is what this is all about.
At that point, Castles goes into a long (we didn’t time it Duncan, we’re playing the ball not the man) rant questioning how successful ‘Guardiola football’ really is, so Mediawatch opened a new tab and typed the words ‘Premier League table’ into Google. It seems to be going alright.
But the final flourish of Castles’ column really is spectacular:
‘What has Mourinho been doing at Manchester United with a squad that is in need of a significant upgrade to put it on a level with the Champions League superpowers? What he has always done: Tailored his approach to the opponent and the circumstances of the match. Different tactics, different systems, different methods for different games.
‘Pragmatic? Yes. But unless a football manager expected to win titles has superior resources to his opponents is there any other sensible way to work?’
Yes, and that’s the entire point Duncan. He produced a performance and style against Sevilla that was completely at odds with the requirements of the match and opponent, causing Manchester United’s exit from the competition.
As for the ‘superior resources’ argument, Mediawatch must have stern words with the owners of Sevilla, because they’ve been hiding their ‘superior resources’ to Manchester United from their balance sheets all this time. And the issue in the Premier League – as Castles well knows but ignores – is not that Manchester United are not winning the title, but that they aren’t even competing. Their gap to Arsenal is only one point larger than their gap to Manchester City.
Arguing that a manager cannot be expected to win titles against the financial elite would hold a lot more weight if a) he wasn’t managing a member of said financial elite, and b) he wasn’t knocked out of European football’s most prestigious competition by a club with lower revenues than Bournemouth.
The murky side of news
‘Manchester United star Luke Shaw set for exit after bookmakers slash odds on summer move,’ reads the headline on The Sun’s football homepage, prominently placed. Mediawatch might have gone with ‘Manchester United star Luke Shaw set for exit after being repeatedly called out by his manager’, but still.
‘LUKE SHAW looks certain to leave Manchester United as bookies slash odds on him leaving next summer.
‘Sun Bets have him at 1/2 to leave before the start of next season and EVENS to be the first player Jose Mourinho gets off his books at Old Trafford during the next window.’
Sun Bets spokesman Tim Reynolds said: “It appears as though Luke Shaw can do nothing right in Jose Mourinho’s eyes. Shaw is still only 22 and he will want to kickstart his career in the summer after being starved of game time under Mourinho.”
Woah there; this isn’t news. This is a bookmaker owned by The Sun trying to get readers to place bets on a market created by that bookmaker by dressing up the betting market as news. And it stinks.
You’ll also forgive Mediawatch for taking the insight of the ‘Sun Bets spokesman’ Tim Reynolds with a pinch of salt, given that Reynolds is actually Sun Bets’ Head of PR and Planning, at least according to his LinkedIn profile.
Anyone still doubting whether this is a puff piece designed to tempt readers into gambling is advised to look at the story sub-heading: ‘BET £10 GET A FREE £30 BET’.
Emerge into the background
‘Interesting theory as to why Jose Mourinho has a big problem with Manchester United’s Luke Shaw emerges,’ reads the vague headline on the Mirror Football website.
Ooh, go on. Mediawatch loves a hidden conspiracy theory. Is it because ‘Luke Shaw’ contains all of the letters in the words ‘King Pep Guardiola – Manchester City’? No, probably not.
‘Well, an interesting theory has emerged suggesting it stems from what happened in 2014. At the time Shaw was in-demand at Southampton, and could pretty much pick and choose which Premier League club he wanted to sign for.
‘But despite being a boyhood Chelsea fan he opted to snub Mourinho’s Blues and instead join Manchester United for £27million – a then record fee for a teenager. It has been suggested that the Portuguese believes Shaw’s decision to join Manchester United was driven by money, and this has allegedly irked Mourinho.’
Writes Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail, on the subject of Luke Shaw and Jose Mourinho:
‘Pretty soon, admonishment, even tough love, in the workplace will be a thing of the past. Jose Mourinho is also a bully, apparently, for his attitude towards Luke Shaw.
‘Did he feel Shaw’s performance so ordinary it constituted defiance? And, if Mourinho took it personally, does that automatically equate to harassment?
‘Bullying is one of the buzzwords of the season. The investigation continues into the behaviour of Newcastle coach Peter Beardsley and, whatever the outcome, it is unlikely he is going to be let near his under-23 squad again.’
Is ‘bullying’ really one of the buzzwords of the season? Or has it just been used once to described alleged racial abuse of young players by Beardsley at Newcastle, and again in a Daily Telegraph story to describe the unhappiness of Manchester United players at Mourinho’s treatment of Shaw?
That doesn’t sound like a buzzword to us. It sounds like one perfectly understandable description of some allegedly despicable treatment from someone in a position of authority and one newspaper headline that Samuel has taken as Shaw’s own words and used as a stick to beat him with over 1,000 words of copy, the bully. Oops.
‘Gary Lineker, understood to be three years into a five-year BBC contract and yet to suffer any gender-related drop in pay, seems to have special status at the Beeb.
‘Even when he tweets an obscenity — ‘As I’m covering this game, I’ll remain impartial… actually, f*** that, get in you beauty’ — when Jamie Vardy equalises for Leicester against Chelsea while hosting coverage of the FA Cup quarter-final, the BBC excuse the foul language as it is the private Twitter account of Lineker.
‘Never mind that he is working for the BBC as by far their best paid sports presenter’ – Charlie Sale, Daily Mail.
Using part of your handsomely paid column to call for someone to be disciplined for using a swear word on their personal Twitter account that people can either choose to follow or not. It’s almost as if the Mail might have an agenda against Gary Lineker.
Offensive line of the day
From BBC 5Live’s (otherwise excellent) Monday Night Club:
Rory Smith: “I think people might find a slightly friendlier country than they are expecting. The exception being – and this is a hugely important exception…anyone who is gay or black. That is where there will be real problems.”
Ian Wright, laughing: “I won’t wear a dress.”
And nor will (or do) most gay people, Ian. Perhaps it’s worth leaving out the offensive and dated stereotypes. Consider us disappointed.
Recommended reading of the day
Rory Smith on Russia’s influence in the Premier League.
Louis Gibberd-Thomas on Alessandro Nesta.
Paul Hirst on Luke Shaw.
More from Planet Sport: As Good As It Gets: The story of Leeds Rhinos’ golden generation (Love Rugby League).