Nick Miller doesn't want to feel sorry for Sam Allardyce, but if Davids Gold and Sullivan continue their game of brinksmanship he might have to. It's a tricky situation for all...
Ed Woodward gets plenty of criticism (and some of it richly deserved), but Nick Miller describes a numbers man pushed into the Old Trafford limelight. It's not easy...
"I can think of nothing better than making 55,000 people from New York shut up...I was looking forward to hitting that top step and hearing those people boo me. They fed me as much as any crowd ever."
Curt Schilling was one of the best pitchers in baseball in the last 20 years. He won the World Series three times with with two different teams, playing a huge role in all three successes. He was also what could most accurately be described as a gobshite, a semi-professional agitator who seemed to annoy opposition fans as much as he delighted his own. He seemed to feed off the hate that hit him like walking outside on an Arizona summer day when he played in opposition stadiums, particularly in New York.
Now, which figure in football does he remind you of? Maybe...well there's...perhaps you could say...no...no, it's gone.
Without climbing into that increasingly grizzled head of his, it's difficult to work out what might please Jose Mourinho more: winning games, or annoying large swathes of people. He seems to be like the old school clogging defender who went in for a tackle with the ball being a handy bonus - winning the thing would be grand, but hurting the other guy is the real aim.
Perhaps that might partly explain Chelsea's defeat to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. Having annoyed a couple of nations with a pair of 'backs against the wall' performances both in Madrid and Liverpool over the last week or so, how could Jose resist putting out a similarly 'solid' line-up at Stamford Bridge? Mourinho had Andre Schurrle and Oscar available to him (the latter apparently not 100%...but still) and instead chose to pick seven players who would class themselves as defenders of some sort or other. There were tactical reasons for this, probably, but the prospect of annoying so many people would surely have been too delicious to resist.
Mourinho is of course a colossal egotist (apart from anything else, listen to him when he lists the trophies the teams he has managed have won - it's always 'I won' or 'I am the champion', rarely 'we'), and that might be the explanation behind his apparent straw-clutching statement after the win over Liverpool on Sunday, when he pointed out that Chelsea have now done the double over whoever the champions will be, assuming it isn't them, of course.
These are the toughest tests the Premier League has to offer, so that's one reason that Mourinho's teams might well be more up for them, but it's also possible that these simply offer the old boy the biggest stage on which to flip an entire country the bird. Of course the stifling tactics and time-wasting, particularly in the early stages at Anfield, were absolutely sensible and it's a mystery why more teams haven't tried that against Liverpool, but they were also the most effective and loudest way to say 'f*ck you' to basically everybody that hates Mourinho. And that's a lot of people.
You could call him a wind-up merchant, but that seems too...small for Mourinho. There are similarities, in that both Jose and the WUM deliberately attempt to irk people in order to direct attention onto themselves, but it's just Mourinho does it on a much bigger scale and seems to feed off it even more. He's like the Ultimate Warrior (rest his soul) grabbing the ropes, shaking them and gaining his power from them (and this week for 'ropes' read 'cross scousers'), or perhaps Emperor Palpatine, letting the hate floooooooow through him.
Mourinho feeds off your hate. Boo him, and he'll just do it more. He'll hide the ball from your players, he'll shout at your ball boys, he'll engage in the most naked and blatant hypocrisy, and will he give a single solitary shit? Of course not. Probably the best way to deal with Mourinho is to ignore him, but getting 50,000 people in a football stadium to shut up is both rather tricky and rather counter-productive.
Mourinho, it seems, lives to be contrary, even when selecting a side for a game his side absolutely must score in. He exists to annoy you, and thus he is exactly the sort of manager you would love if he is managing your team.
Imagine, if you will, a Mourinho-managed Manchester United team parking those two buses at Anfield and beating Liverpool in a similarly attritional manner, throwing their title challenge off course. Imagine how astonishingly, rib-crackingly, lung-pukingly funny United fans would have found that, scousers raging around them at the 'anti-football' deployed to beat them. Mourinho is a bastard, but he annoys people in just the right way to be 'our' bastard to anyone who supports him, and there is no better time to display that than on the biggest stage.
It was always said of Johnny Carson that behind the desk of his talk show and with the cameras rolling he was the brightest conversationalist in America, but when the lights off he retreated into himself and basically tried to avoid people wherever possible. When the brightest spotlights are on, you can be sure that Jose will be standing right there, two middle fingers raised high and proud.
Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter
I think Arsenes strategy of essentially ignoring Jose (unless pressed by the media to respond to some inanity) is the wisest - bearing in mind the old saying that you should never wrestle with pigs, cos' everybody just gets filthy!- noelk