And so with one coatless bound across Turf Moor, he was free; what a disappointing Sunday for all the Mourinho haters across the world.
September 2 is a date of historic surrenders — Japan 1945, Napoleon III 1870, Ottomans 1686 — and a sack-tempting international break is
imminent. But the much-maligned big lump Lukaku came to the rescue of a boss who’s largely stood by him, and the tension duly evaporated faster than a protest plane fly-past.
Of course, if you take banner-target Ed Woodward’s word for it, José was never in any serious danger. Then again, if you take Woodward’s word for things, you’ll have been expected to believe quite a lot of fanciful flights this past week. Desperate-sounding Ed has never been busier on the briefing front, and it’s been fun picking out which of the sayings of “friends of Woodward” were the most pathetic or comical. (The ‘José-kisses-our-texts’ one was certainly a doozy.)
You may find it hard to believe scruffy munchkin Ed has any friends to be quoted in the first place. If ever there was a kid whose head spent school years being toilet-bowl-flushed, it’s poor Ed, right? But “friends of X” is journo code. Many lines came from hacks who’d been in Monaco standing alongside Woodward for the European Cup draw. I don’t think we need Arsène Lupin to join the dots.
There remain the boss’s issues with his supposed star player. Pogba’s penalty miss at Turf Moor will have struck many as symbolic of a player alleged not to want to contribute to the cause any more. But the Spanish transfer deadline has passed, so José and Paul are stuck together for the time being.
Can there be some sort of truce in the interim? Ronaldo and Fergie once famously did a ‘one more season’ deal before Ronnie was allowed his dream move to Real. These are obviously rather different circumstances but it’s not inconceivable some sort of understanding might be reached.
When Pogba left Juve, his first choice was Spain; I am told Raiola convinced him of Old Trafford’s merits by saying “give United three years, and then I will ensure you have your final big move”.
Even the usually over-self-confident Pogba seemingly understood he wasn’t quite ready to run a Barca or Real team. He clearly thinks he is now, though; that’s what a World Cup final goal and winner’s medal can do to your head.
As for the rest of the motley shower of shirts Reds have been fuming about these past few weeks, what hope is there of knocking them into some sort of shape and getting through the Champions League group and to the January window in one piece?
José’s made his views about his defence embarrassingly clear; I wonder whether he will yet trigger the threat he made to a contact two months ago about moving Matic into a fully defensive role.
There is dressing-room muttering about players being confused and unhappy with tactics and coaching, which does not bode well — unless the moaning players are ones José wants rid of anyway. Thank goodness for the international break; at least everyone has some time to think.
As I glance up again at the top paragraph, with its date and anniversaries, I note it is 10 years this week since the Gulf Arabs made their move on City, and 20 years this week since BSkyB launched their bid for United. Everything about our Manchester football world today is built around the consequences of those two events.
I’ll resist the tasteless temptation to riff on ‘Black September’; let’s just say there have been many days since one has been tempted to sing that saddest September song, ‘What might’ve been...’ Anyway: happy anniversary, City. You jammy, jammy, Blue beggars.