I wonder whether the Portuguese have an expression equivalent to ‘Sod’s Law’? In the very week that the Silver Jubilee-celebrating King Cantona was visiting his realm, thus making our thoughts drift happily back to the 1992/3 season, Mourinho’s men produced two boring stinkers. The comparisons with the Good Old Days were unavoidable and telling.
Eric himself rammed the point home by explicitly criticising United’s current playing style on Britain’s biggest radio programme, and even admitted he wished Pep had got the O.T. job instead of Mourinho.
Normally, one would reach for phrases such as ‘treason’ and ‘lèse-majesté’ when leading Reds are publicly undermining the manager. But with Eric being the King, and thus outranking a mere Prince (of Darkness) José, the Portugeezer and his men o’ war will have to take the royal proclamation on the chin.
The second half in Basel, and almost all of Saturday, were certainly pretty thin gruel from a team supposedly rejuvenated by the return of prodigal Pogba.
It’s true that Brighton are an efficient and well-organised team but scraping by with a deflection, from a corner that shouldn’t have been given, was a poor show.
They will have to do much better than this at Watford tomorrow, who have occasionally shown some real threat this season. And Vicarage Road is not a place with happy memories for José; remember last season’s embarrassing defeat, and the subsequent spat with Luke Shaw?
Jose rather originally opined at the weekend that he is dealing with a problem of having too many attackers knocking about, which was as amusing as it was cheeky.
In fact, his pals in Lisbon tell me that his serious diagnosis matches that of many Reds: he wants another winger, and a creative No.10-style talent. Mata and Mickey no longer fit the bill for the latter post, and we all know José was thwarted on the former during the summer, when Woodward failed to seal the Perisic deal.
Ah, yes: SuperTed Woodward - the puffed-up scruffy hobbit who thinks he’s a British Prime Minister. By which I mean he likes to resort to a version of the Westminster parliamentary lobby system, whereby selected hacks are called together and fed a load of storylines on an unattributable - and therefore unaccountable - basis.
Eddy held his drinks do for the Manchester reptiles last week, and they then duly rolled out a pile of helpful stories over subsequent days.
One line that didn’t make print, but which was pitched to some of the hacks, was that Perisic wasn’t signed because Internazionale “simply refused to sell”.
Which isn’t what José’s allies say — and nor is it what United were briefing at the time. In fact, most objective observers agree that the deal didn’t happen because United and Inter couldn’t match their valuations — after extensive talks, involving an Ed flight to Italy.
Ed also briefed that he was relaxed about the recent José/PSG stories, and airily declared that José’s comments on the matter were “a bit of fun”. He also added that it’s “too early to start negotiations” over an improved deal. As one of my Mourinho-mate Lisbon sources laconically noted: “Had those quotes appeared attached to Woodward’s name, you can rest assured José and Jorge Mendes wouldn’t have been too thrilled.”
Such are the silly willy-waving games that go on behind the scenes, then: José pretends he might really be tempted to jump ship to PSG next summer, and then Ed pretends he’s not in the slightest bit bothered about such a prospect. Boys will be boys.
You can understand that the hacks lap this stuff up: one of them got four stories in five days out of Ed’s drinkies. Phil Space remains the patron saint of journalists, after all.
Your (pseudo-) hack correspondent wasn’t invited, of course, so is happy to shine spoilsport light upon the magic.
And is also happy to tell you something Woodward didn’t share with the hacks: Mourinho has identified a young creative Brazilian player he thinks might make all the difference next season. Now, if only his mates would tell me his name; perhaps I should invite them in for drinks...
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