LONDON – The self-styled Special One goes head-to-head with the Sensible One on Saturday.
Jose Mourinho and JürgenKlopp, Chelsea vs. Liverpool, yet the build-up to the first meeting in English football between the Portuguese and the German has been dominated by Mourinho’s continued (and showing no signs of slowing down) disciplinary excesses.
Soon, he will need his own personal disciplinary department at Football Association headquarters.
Mourinho has made self-delusion part of his DNA. Losing managers have a habit of deflecting the blame for defeat on to match officials, yet can Mourinho truly believe his accusations, derogatory remarks and doubting of referees’ integrity that have become his hallmark?
Chelsea has more disciplinary charges this season than wins, though with only three victories that is not too difficult given its personnel. Mourinho was fined £50,000 and given a suspended one-game stadium ban for saying referees are afraid to give Chelsea penalties.
During the 2-1 defeat at West Ham last weekend, Nemanja Matic was sent off; Mourinho and his assistant Sivino Lauro were sent to the stand for the second half; Chelsea had more than five players sanctioned, which triggered an F.A. fine; the F.A. also charged it for failing to control its players.
It is believed to be the “most disciplined” match for a club in Premier League history —there was little more Chelsea could have been guilty of in one game.
In Mourinho’s eyes referees, goal-line technology, the authorities, Lady Luck, the lottery of a shootout defeat and television pundits are out to get Chelsea. There is something grimly fascinating yet sad about seeing one of his generation’s finest coaches in his biggest managerial crisis.
The man who used to master in manipulation is in emotional meltdown, a far cry from the returning Chelsea manager two years ago who announced he was now the Happy One.
All but the most one-eyed Blues supporters are fed up with his predictable diatribes, yet these verbal assaults must be condoned by Roman Abramovich otherwise the owner would have instructed his manager to rein in his rants and raves. What the Russian orders must be obeyed and his silence is deafening.
There is a little pride, even ego, in most of us and it is natural to hope we are appreciated by those we work for and with; that we will be remembered fondly for a lifetime of giving our job the best we could while making friends along the way.
This week the lawyers of Dr. Eva Carneiro served notice on Chelsea that she plans to seek a claim for constructive dismissal in wake of her humiliation by Mourinho earlier this season. However, she will almost certainly pursue a discrimination claim as there is a cap of £78,335 on CD payouts. Legal insiders believe a payment of nearer to £1 million is likely with a gagging clause —an expensive rant by Mourinho which, of course, pre-supposes he is bothered.
Mourinho seems unconcerned that his image is tarnished beyond repair and that his legacy will be of a snarling, anti-establishment bully whose idea of public relations is to criticize officials. His successes will be a poor second in the memory, his approach a stark contrast to Klopp, who has the ability to talk about his team without making it all about himself.
A young Liverpool side gave Klopp his first victory after three draws as it beat Bournemouth 1-0 in the League Cup. The Reds go into the game at Stamford Bridge with a three-point advantage over Chelsea and after losing in the cup to Stoke, Mourinho knows another defeat would pile even more pressure on him.
While showing defensive stability in Klopp’s short reign, Liverpool has lacked cutting edge without the injured Daniel Sturridge and Christian Benteke.
A low-scoring draw seems the most likely outcome, but let’s hope Mourinho can make it through the 90 minutes and not embarrass himself.
Fans getting restless: An email arrived from an ardent Manchester United fan two days ago. “I hope Louis van Fraud was impressed by our possession against Middlesbrough.”
United failed to score against the Championship side in 120 minutes — in fact, it has failed to score a home goal this month. It managed to convert only one of its four penalties in the League Cup shootout loss — the team that finished the game had a collective 407 international caps so it was hardly a scratch side.
The Old Trafford faithful tend to regard the League Cup as a trophy other clubs can win, thank you, but United needs to be successful post-Ferguson and the League Cup would at least have been some silverware.
As United is fourth in the Premier League, two points behind leader Manchester City, on the face of it Louis van Gaal is doing little wrong.
United’s football is dreary, joyless, predictable and alien to the traditions of the club.
Van Gaal has made his team solid defensively, but given that the Dutchman has spent almost £250 million during his 15 months in charge, United should be polished not pragmatic with as much style as steel. The team lacks creativity and places the emphasis on safety-first, risk-free football.
The damning verdict from former United legend Paul Scholes was: “It’s a team you wouldn’t want to play against, but one you wouldn’t want to play in either.”
Yet United is packed with exciting individuals, from Chris Smalling and Matteo Darmian at the back, Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, Morgan Schneiderlin and Juan Mata in midfield with Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial up front.
Some clubs are happy just to win. United fans expect their team to win with a swagger, but van Gaal appears to believe victory is the ultimate entertainment.
On Saturday, United travels to Crystal Palace, which, under Alan Pardew, is proving that you do not have to spend a fortune to put together a side that can punch above its weight and combine pace, power and most of all for the Eagles fans, pleasure.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.
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