Wednesday, 14 March 2018
Arrogant, blase and muddled Mourinho needs to buck his ideas up quickly
It was the tie in microcosm: a hungry, fired up and motivated underdog against a muddled, lifeless, indecisive and passive heavyweight.
There have been disappointments under him of course, but last night was the first time I genuinely felt a sense of anger and resentment since his arrival. Anger at the attitude of the players, who seemed to think that strolling through a Champions League last 16 tie without barely trying was acceptable. Resentment at the worst perfomance I have seen from a United side in a long while. Then there's the post-match comments of the manager, who single handedly insulted each and every one of United's 650 million-strong global fanbase with his blase and arrogant soundbites. By suggesting the performance was not bad, he had no regrets and that the team gave everything may have been a stance to protect the players, but what made things worse was the notion that the result was not the end of the world and that a last 16 exit in Europe was nothing new for Manchester United.
He seemed to revel in the fact that he was the man responsible for two of those exits - with Porto in 2004 and Real Madrid in 2011. Taking a dig at the club you now work for with a snidey sideways swipe thrown in for good measure will only add fuel to the fire as tensions and unrest begin to gather pace. Does this man have respect for anyone but himself?
Mourinho has always been a divisive - and often derided - figure with a colourful and controversial personality, but, although I will always back my club and the manager to the hilt, no one is bigger than the club. I'm not at the point where I want him gone because there's very few men out there who could do better, but his arrogance last night felt like he was kicking us all in the balls when we'd already been poleaxed. How dare he - how very dare he - come out and question the intelligence of us fans by saying that he effectively wasn't bothered by the outcome. That may not have been what he meant, but it's certainly how it came across. Not since David Moyes fatefully said that we should aspire to be like City has there been such an outrage at comments made by a Man United manager.
His selection was confusingly muddled and set the tone for what was to follow. Marcus Rashford, who terrorised Liverpool from the left, was for some reason switched to the right. Scott McTominay, having performed so well in recent high profile fixtures, was kept on the bench. Paul Pogba may have been injured recently, but he's a better footballer in every conceivable way than the rusty Marouane Fellaini, who was thrust into the team against Sevilla. In what world did Mourinho think it was ever going to work with a rusty Belgian, on his first game back after four months out, in midfield instead of the pace and power of the Frenchman or the youthful industry of McTominay. Even Michael Carrick, with his experience and guile, would have made more sense. Fellaini was a passenger, bossed by man of the match Steven N'Zonzi. Mourinho left it too late to make his substitutions, and Alexis Sanchez - who flitted around between all three attacking positions - was almost anonymous. Our two most creative attacking players, Juan Mata and Anthony Martial, got 13 minutes when both should either have started or come on much earlier.
From start to finish it was embarrasing and the manager needs to buck his ideas up quickly.