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Spot on Jose Mourinho Proves Talk of Him Being Antiquated to Be Premature

Almost universally billed as a battle of aesthetics—in the red corner the achingly dull pragmatist, and in the other red corner the manic gegenpressing zealot—Manchester United's defeat of Liverpool adhered to predetermined tropes and prejudices to such an extent it felt as if it could have been scripted. It was. By Jose Mourinho.  This was the type of polarising performance Mourinho has built his career on. Textbook stuff. At various intervals throughout the game even United's supporters seemed unsure whether they were witnessing a tactical master class or their team getting away with one. If United had not administered two knock down blows a points decision would have been unanimous. Liverpool enjoyed, or as Mourinho would probably argue, endured, 67.9 percent possession, 584 passes to United's 283, bossed the shot count 14 to five and led the corner count 13 to 1. One suspects Mourinho subscribes to the Mark Twain view: "Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable." When Frank De Boer pithily and amusingly replied, "it's allowed now", when asked about Mourinho's style of football on BT Sport, it was a view shared by many. Yet the day's most decisive football was played by Manchester United in the first half when Marcus Rashford scored his two goals and Juan Mata went close to making it 3-0 with an acrobatic volley just wide. David de Gea did not make a save of note all afternoon. Other than Virgil van Dijk's attempted header that came off his shoulder, when he should have scored from a corner, it's hard to think of a clear-cut Liverpool chance. In the second half Liverpool failed to have a shot on target. Mourinho's thoughts on the style police are well documented. Here's one he made earlier, per the Guardian: "People talk about style and flair, but what is that? Sometimes I ask myself about the future, and maybe the future of football is a beautiful green grass carpet without goals, where the team with more ball possession wins the game. The way people analyse style and flair is to take the goals off the pitch."  As a coach Mourinho believes his central role is to expose an opponent's weaknesses, as opposed to accentuate his own team's strengths. He once claimed a key part of his methodology is disguising his own side's shortcomings. Smoke and mirrors matter to Mourinho like few other coaches. When he goes on holiday he probably tries to trick the sun into thinking it's raining by making his wife spray him with a watering can. It is the antitheses to how Klopp works, how Guardiola works, how Mauricio Pochettino works. It still works. As Graeme Souness simmered in the Sky Sports studio, despite the fact no one seemingly disagreed with him (maybe that was the problem), he was right when he tetchily spat out his view: "There's more than one way to win football matches." No one quite loves an ugly beautiful win like Mourinho. One suspects he enjoys it more when an opposition manager goes home raging about an injustice, as Klopp no doubt will have done on the back of Liverpool having had three half decent shouts for penalties waved away, than dishing out a resounding beating. Players administer beatings; coaches are often the difference when a game hangs on the finest of margins. Yet for many it still won't be enough. The easy on the eye football presently being played by Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham on a weekly basis has effectively amended what is deemed acceptable at the very top clubs in England, not least to their supporters. Neutrals are even higher maintenance. United are second in the league and have beaten all of the top six with the exception of Manchester City. Yet other than Arsene Wenger no manager has been criticised as widely or as often as Mourinho.  Winning, to Mourinho's obvious disgust, is no longer enough.  Especially when taking into account the money he has spent. The temptation is always to bring money into it. The £312 million Mourinho has parted with at a net expenditure of £260 million, compared to Klopp's £221 million with a profit of £4 million (h/t Mirror), gives Liverpool the type of bragging rights that can make only the heart of an accountant swell. The plight of Arsenal supporters should be stark warning for those Liverpool brethren always eager to talk numbers. Winning the net spend league consecutively for the best part of a decade hasn't stopped branches of AA (Arsenal Anonymous) worldwide from struggling to cope with over subscription. If whoever takes over from Wenger in 2050 doesn't spend Stan Kroenke's money as though playing the lead role in a remake of Brewster's Millions, they will be run out of Islington by crowds brandishing pitchforks.  If there is tension over the football United have played this season, and there most certainly is, Mourinho isn't showing it. All week the Iberian had been as relaxed as a linen suit, somewhat of a surprise given usually before big matches he shows his team exactly what he wants by adopting a defensive position. Again at fulltime he was full of joie de vivre, mischievously and pointedly telling Sky Sports: "Even if people don't think we deserve, I don't care! Let's go home, three points." In his press conference he was similarly on a roll. He half-jokingly claimed he had substituted Rashford because Gary Neville's halftime assessment that he should have been sent off would have put pressure on referee Craig Pawson to do so, before admonishing the home crowd for showing their irritation at Scott McTominay for passing the ball backwards when United were attacking. Unsurprisingly, he was more than happy with the midfielder's choice of passes. On Eric Bailly he deadpanned, "Fantastic performance, amazing goal." With a hint of devilment in his eyes, Mourinho was enjoying himself. It's not too often that's been said of the Portuguese over the past few years. In their last three matches United have done jobs on Chelsea and Liverpool, and won 3-2 at Crystal Palace after coming back from two goals down. By the end of next week they may be safely ensconced in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League and the semi-finals of the FA Cup. It may not be the fabled Manchester United way, but it's Mourinho's way. And it's starting to yield some pretty impressive results.  With eight league games left to play United have two more wins than in the whole of last season, scored four more goals and secured only four points fewer. The...


Published By: Bleacher Report - Monday, 12 March, 2018

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