‘The light-hearted interlude follows an afternoon of intense questioning, with the world’s eyes on the newly-dubbed ‘Humble One” – Daily Mail.
‘Jose Mourinho is now the Humble One. Or so he’d have you believe’ – London Evening Standard.
Mediawatch thought better of you, James Olley.
‘Jose Mourinho insists he’s the ‘humble’ one in first Spurs press conference’ – Daily Star.
At least you haven’t capitalised it. But still nope
‘Jose Mourinho insisted he was now the ‘Humble One’. It lasted five minutes’ – FOX Sports.
Quote marks denote actual, y’know, quotes. Yet he never said those words. Weird.
It’s going to be a long three years, folks.
Escargot and lemon peel
Of all the reaction to Mourinho’s first Tottenham press conference, perhaps our favourite bit is Daily Mail body language expert Judi James telling us that ‘parts of his face did attempt a smile, with some dimples and eye-scrunching, but the corners of his mouth remained turned down, suggesting the effort was not successful’.
It’s the sort of insight only an expert in the field can possibly offer.
And thanks for revealing that ‘the kind, smiling version’ of Mourinho the world witnessed on Thursday ‘could just be an act’. We assumed he had just completely stopped being a bit of a kn*b and him being nice was nothing to do with trying to win over an understandably distrusting support base.
But the stories from Mourinho’s first press conference – much as the event itself – were relatively tame. For our fix of fawning sycophancy, it’s time for a trip over to The Athletic. Laurie Whitwell is here to tell everyone ‘Why Manchester United are no longer desperate for Pochettino’.
It doesn’t need a considerable amount of explanation, in fairness. Pochettino is clearly the superior, more proven manager but United placed all their eggs in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s basket long ago. It would be incredibly bold to sack a coach eight months into a three-year contract after giving him one summer transfer window and a raft of public backing. It would be borderline stupid if said coach was a club icon who is constantly said to encapsulate its biggest values, and the decision was made mid-season to replace him with the manager sacked by a team seven places lower.
But Whitwell does not stop at ‘Ole plays the kids’ and ‘favours the United way’. He perhaps should have.
Instead, Solskjaer is praised for showing Ed Woodward ‘a flip chart of what United’s team might look like in three years’ just two games into his tenure. The Norwegian ‘was already thinking of the future’, which is clearly beyond Pochettino.
Not that such ‘foresight’ is uncommon when it comes to Solskjaer. Observe:
‘Solskjaer cautioned United’s hierarchy in strongest terms that the wins would not last, that there would be a dip, and that deeper cultural change was required to gain sustained success.’
Solskjaer is good because…he knew it would all go to sh*t and was unable to prevent it? Is that right?
‘The subsequent losses (eight in the final 12 games after defeat Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last 16, a run that also saw only two wins) looked ugly but his prediction was borne out…’
Telling his bosses that ‘the wins would not last’ and that ‘there would be a dip’ is one thing; defeats to Bournemouth, Newcastle, West Ham and Crystal Palace are entirely another. Even if ‘deeper cultural change was required to gain sustained success’, losing 2-0 at home to relegated Cardiff is still pretty sh*t.
But Solskjaer deserves credit for sanctioning the departures of Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku this summer with no replacements, because it has given Mason Greenwood a chance to ‘come through’. He might even be in line for a first meaningful Premier League appearance longer than half an hour soon.
‘Defeats by West Ham United and Newcastle United during a six-match winless run highlighted the jeopardy Solskjaer had opened himself up to – displays bereft of attacking verve, with few options on the bench to affect matters – but the curve since October’s international break has been upwards, with five wins, a draw against leaders Liverpool, and a defeat to Bournemouth. There was at least partial mitigation for that loss in that it was United’s fourth away game in a row and a 12.30pm Saturday kick-off following a Wednesday night Carabao Cup match at Chelsea.’
Again, can such stark defeats to West Ham and Newcastle – 16th and 13th – really be glossed over by beating Norwich, Brighton and Partizan Belgrade? Is ‘displays bereft of attacking verve, with few options on the bench to affect matters’ really delving deep enough, considering the lengths you are going to to defend him?
And that ‘partial mitigation’ for losing to Bournemouth is partially tosh. Solskjaer made four changes to his starting line-up for that game and he himself admitted it was “a lack of quality” that cost them rather than a lack of fitness.
Next, we are told that ‘his principles at United hold weight’ because his three summer signings are regular starters, and that he ‘is also committed to the wider responsibilities that come with being United manager’ because he ‘attended the annual dinner for United’s disabled supporters association’ recently. Pochettino would presumably have rejected the chance.
So sorry, fella, because while you have managed more than fives times as many Premier League games, recorded almost seven times as many wins, finished in the top four twice as often as Manchester United since Sir Alex Ferguson left and reached a Champions League final on a budget, Solskjaer is just too ‘committed to the wider responsibilities that come with being United manager’. You would think those ‘wider responsibilities’ include ‘not being below Sheffield United in 7th after finishing 6th last season and spending more than any other Premier League side in the summer,’ but no.
So to answer the question – ‘Why Manchester United are no longer desperate for Pochettino’ – it is because Solskjaer ‘is doing everything he can’ to be a success. Except winning more league games than he loses.
Writes Graeme Bryce in The Sun:
‘Leicester want to reward James Maddison with a bumper new deal to reflect his status as one of the country’s most sought-after talents.
‘SunSport can reveal the high-flying Foxes have secretly sounded out Maddison’s representatives about opening preliminary talks, with a view to extending the midfielder’s current deal.’
And they have done it so ‘secretly’ that the Manchester Evening News had the exact same exclusive at Wednesday lunchtime. Weird.
Say hello to Charlie Nicholas and Sky Sports:
“I do think City will want to simply go and beat Chelsea and get the job done with three points.”
You don’t say?
“Bournemouth are good going forward but shaky at the back.”
In Premier League terms, ten teams have scored more goals but only five have conceded fewer. They have let in three in their last five games.
‘This is a massive one for Everton and I have to fancy them at home. It has not been good to watch and Marco Silva has chopped and changed team a lot. His breakdown of the last away game suggested he doesn’t seem to feel pressure at all – what a load of rubbish!
‘I’ll tell you the reason why you feel pressure Mr Silva, in the last few games you have changed the team on a regular basis, sometimes four of five players, which tells you that you do not know your best starting team.’
And Mediawatch will tell you why that’s a little disingenuous Mr Nicholas: Everton made three changes to their starting line-up against Southampton, two of which were enforced. They made two changes to their starting line-up against Tottenham, both of which were enforced. They made one change against Brighton.
Silva has been guilty of over-rotation in the past, but certainly not now, so it’s a strange stick to beat him with. Unless you expected him to start Andre Gomes and Fabian Delph at Southampton?
Case for the defence
‘The nine defenders Manchester United did not sign under Jose Mourinho’ – Manchester Evening News.
We’re fairly sure they didn’t sign literally all of the other defenders.
Recommended reading of the day
Amy Lawrence chats with Robert Pires
Barney Ronay on Jose Mourinho.
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