Is art imitating life or life imitating art?
It was difficult to tell after Manchester United’s victory against Juventus, which saw Normal José Mourinho throw on Marouane Fellaini late on and shithouse his way to a very fortunate 2-1 victory.
If that wasn’t enough, he then proceeded to goad the entire Juventus support into a rage by cupping his ear and making a weird face. It was pure, unadulterated Evil José.
Are fiction and reality starting to blur? Only time will tell. For us, the journey continues. If you don’t know what’s going on you can read Part 1 here, but it should be obvious anyway.
I haven’t actually played the game since the defining victory against Shithouse (Cardiff) City and was reasonably pleased to find that the next few fixtures all seemed winnable.
And then I spotted a run of games after that, including Chelsea, Liverpool and the derby against Manchester City. It seems unlikely that Evil José will still be in the job by then, but we must plough forward in hope more than anything.
For the trip to Wolves Evil José notices that Ashley Young is fully fit so decides to drop his star player, Eden “Right Wing-Back” Hazard. Wolves, meanwhile, opt for one of the most disgusting formations I have ever seen in the game, playing a 5-4-1 with two defensive midfielders.
Evil José makes a mental note to try it out.
Luke Shaw injures himself ‘trying to sprint’ within five minutes, so Evil José is forced to consult his bench. Hazard comes on to take his place whilst Ashley Young shifts across to play down the left. The first-half comes and goes with absolutely nothing of note happening other than Adama Traore continuing to hurtle down the right to either: a) smash a cross out of play or, b) just dribble it out of play by himself.
Fellaini hits the post with a header because that's what he always does.
In the second half United take the lead after perpetual heel-snapper Ander Herrera arrives to head home a Hazard cross. Rinse and repeat for the second, with Salomon Kalou proving himself an instant United hero (despite what the fans think) with his second goal in two games. Again, it all came through Hazard down the right.
Weirdly, this actually looks like it's working.
To see out the game Evil Jose copies Wolves' 5-4-1, pulls a strange face and cups his ear to the thick yam-yam sound of the Molineux.
That is, of course, before Hazard pulls up in the 89th minute with a calf problem and Evil José feels fear for perhaps the very first time in this virtual world.
After the game, United briefly move into a lofty second place.
There is little reaction to Hazard’s injury, with the virtual Twitter users trapped inside Football Manager’s dystopian universe seemingly more concerned by Shaw’s absence from the team. Both he and Hazard are out for several weeks.
Only the fantastically named Klevis Bytyqi and Antonio Joseph offer any levelheadedness by stating, respectively: “Ah no, that’s not good.” And “Well, what can you do?”.
Scarlett Larmond, meanwhile, professes to clairvoyance, claiming that she saw the injury coming a mile off, whilst Zack Nelson, the game’s most realistic interpretation of reactionary football Twitter, says: “What an absolute shambles this club is.”
Because Luke Shaw got injured.
Elsewhere, rivals Man City secure their first win of the season thanks to a hat-trick from Vincent Kompany. Of course.
Without Hazard in the team, United slump to a 3-1 defeat at home to Bournemouth. Kalou scores again, which is pleasing for Evil José, but it isn’t enough thanks to Charlie Daniels cutting in on a right foot he doesn’t actually possess and smashing one into the top corner, before Bournemouth get the softest of deflected goals after a stray shot flies in by way of Chris Smalling’s arse.
Despite Juan Mata actually making slide tackles and Lee Cattermole even occasionally passing to his own team, the Red Devils fail to score.
After the game assistant manager Ricardo Carvalho suggests Cattermole should be dropped for Paul Pogba.
Lokomotiv Moscow (A)
Keen to keep things fresh for United’s first Champions League fixture against Lokomotiv Moscow, Evil José partners Marcus Rashford with Peter Crouch up front.
The match ends in a 1-1 draw due to the eternal Jefferson Farfan blazing a penalty over the bar. C(l)attermole is sent off for persistent fouling.
Such is life.
It is Southampton away up next, and due to Evil Jose’s concern for the dual threat of the non-goalscoring striker extraordinaire Shane Long and the other, non-goalscoring striker extraordinaire, Manolo Gabbiadini, he opts for the ultra-defensive, more-parking-the-bus-depot-than-a-singular-bus, 5-4-1 formation he spotted at Wolves.
United lose 2-0.
Within 120 seconds, this piece of commentary appears:
Mike Dean wants a word with Cattermole. Mike Dean is looking for a card here… It’s yellow.
Particularly irksome for Evil José is Southampton’s first goal after six minutes, which comes through Mario Lemina picking up the ball near the halfway line and jogging lightly, uncontested, into a sea of red-shirted cloggers, only to get all the way into the box without so much as a “How’d you do?” and smash one in the top corner.
At half-time, this piece of commentary appears:
Mike Dean brings the first half to a close. He has done everyone a favour. Hopefully the second half will be an improvement.
This is the passage of play throughout most games now, like a slow, dead sea crashing against the rocks.
Lee Cattermole on a yellow and half-time despondency.
After the match, the squad assemble en masse outside of Evil Jose’s office and tell him in no uncertain terms that they have had enough of his management.
Evil Jose, face like one of the hidden ghosts in The Haunting of Hill House you didn’t spot first time around, simply stares right through them, screams a piercing scream and evaporates into thin air.
The day after Fred is complaining about game time. Evil José tells him that Cattermole is simply playing too well to drop.
Fred does not agree. You can sort of understand his point.
Even the media persist in the Cattermole witch hunt, asking in every press conference why he has failed to live up to expectations.
Evil José thinks Cattermole has lived exactly up to expectations. He has been a royal and unapologetic shithouse. What else were they expecting?
He defends him in the conference, and Lee Cattermole is pleased with Evil José’s comments.
Evil José did consider throwing his star midfielder under the proverbial bus, but quickly remembered that every single bus he owns is still stationed at the depot, somewhere deep within one of the penalty areas at St. Mary’s.
Due to squad discontent the Carabao Cup third round tie away at Burnley is a must-win game.
United draw 2-2 in normal time after a Chris Wood brace pulls Sean Dyche's side back from behind, twice. The big Kiwi striker gets free to power home two headers with the United back three evidently missing the imperious Juan Mata in the centre, who typically marshals the backline and gives no inch.
United scrape through on penalties though, and for a moment Evil José can breathe again.
Leicester City (H)
Up next are Leicester City, who United beat 1-0 thanks to a towering header from Paul Pogba, who is deployed alongside Cattermole (rather than replacing him), and is clearly eager to impress his United vice-captain.
The match report describes the game as follows: “The fixture degenerated into a series of fouls that disrupted the flow of the match and allows neither team to find their groove.” Good.
Leicester, the away team, and a typically tight, counterattacking unit, have 61% possession.
Lee Cattermole is booked on 26 minutes.
In the Super Sunday fixture the following day, Neil Warnock’s Shithouse City are 4-0 down at halftime to Brighton.
They win 5-4. The landscape remains full of ghouls.
Life, in the form of the virtual Premier League, rumbles on in familiar pattern.
Ajax in the Champions League comes and goes without much in the way of drama and it is a surprisingly comfortble win considering the fact that the entire squad, bar Cattermole, now despise Evil José.
Nemanja Matic wallops in a gorgeous free-kick off that sledgehammer he calls a left foot and Lukaku bundles one home off a shinpad.
United now face a run of games of Liverpool (h), Chelsea (a), Valencia (a), Manchester City (a).
Four Four Two are publishing an article every week now suggesting that the board have run out of patience with Evil José.
Word on the street is, his neck is on the guillotine block and the blade is about to fall.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man in that case, as the must-win game against Liverpool at home is drawn 1-1 thanks to Lee Cattermole.
Never has a single display so summed up an individual.
Liverpool are in great form at the top of the league and remain undefeated with a superb goal difference to boot.
Manchester United are managed by Evil José.
The game is therefore drifting along to its inevitable 0-0 draw conclusion - a thrilling result for Evil José - when Cattermole picks up the game by the scruff of its neck and shouts something completely inaudible in its ear and then spits a lot, on the floor, for some reason.
He collects a short pass from Marcus ‘Eternal 72nd minute substitute under Evil José’ Rashford, and does the thing Lee Cattermole never ever does with the ball, and that thing is: drive forwards.
He surges past Dejan Lovren and Naby Keita like a gigantic block of cheese rolling down a Gloucestershire hill.
He gets inside the area.
He unleashes a ferocious right foot drive that, whilst watching live, half-asleep, makes me sit bolt upright online in the JOE office and scream like my testicles have just been clamped in a vice as it crashes past Alisson.
The match commentary, simply: “Wow!! Genius by Lee Cattermole!!”
Seven minutes later, Daniel Sturridge has the ball on the edge of the United area. Cattermole, on a yellow car - of course he is on a yellow card -clatters him from behind with one of the most ludicrous challenges that Evil José has ever witnessed.
Remarkably, he manages to get all of the ball and escape a second yellow.
Unremarkably, his heroic last ditch tackle slides the ball straight through to Sadio Mane for a tap-in.
The lord giveth, the lord taketh away.
Against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the next game, United fall to a late 2-1 defeat.
Morata scores, but United captain Marouane Fellaini responds by FINALLY scoring one of the four golden chances via headers he gets every single game that he usually just bullets straight at the goalkeeper, or the crossbar, or the little old lady sat behind the goal.
Chelsea dominate the match and have 28 shots to United’s three, but yet they only win in the dying embers of the game.
De Gea launches a goal kick to Fellaini - on the statistics page for the club this is our number one passing combination, showing the full effect of Evil José - but the Belgian isn’t looking at the play so is oblivious. Again, it is our most common pass.
Pogba and Cattermole are, inexplicably, caught even further forward.
There is no midfield.
Fabregas collects, alone, and places a glorious first time through ball over the top off the instep of his right boot.
Jesse Lingard, who Evil José sold to fund the move for Hazard to play wing-back, is clean through on goal.
Jesse Lingard wins it for Chelsea.
Football Manager doesn’t actually have the Milly Rock animation in the game, but one can only presume Jesse Lingard Milly Rocks in the face of his former manager to celebrate.
Before the derby, United have Valencia at the Mestalla in midweek.
Keen to, again, park the bus depot and with one eye on the City game, Evil José opts to test out an untried 4-2-3-1, but not the traditional kind - instead, the most defensive variation that the shape will allow with Sanchez and Hazard clipped back as defensive wingers.
United lose 4-0 and muster only a single shot on goal, an – and this is not a joke – attempted lob from halfway from Fellaini that drifts wide like a bin bag in the wind.
Change is needed for the trip to the Etihad, but City are hardly flying high themselves and sit in 16th.
A win is desperately needed for both teams, and both managers.
Alone in his office the night before the game, it occurs to Evil José what the obvious solution is.
City’s attack features a number of exceptionally quick, skilful wide players.
And the antithesis to quick, skilful, wide players?
Particularly shithouse full-backs who weren’t full-backs in the first place.
Particularly shithouse full-backs who used to be wingers, but lost their pace, and were forced, through Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, to become shithouse full-backs.
Evil José plays a back three of Young, the Libero Mata and Antonio Valencia. Hazard and Shaw will continue at wing-back.
It proves a masterstroke.
Manchester City (A)
Salomon Kalou, already a United legend, puts the visitors in front with the quintessential Evil José goal.
Hazard bombs down the right and hangs up a cross to the far post. Marouane Fellaini leaps like a monstrous afro salmon and wins the header. Ederson scrambles to keep it out, and Kalou smashes in the rebound.
Lukaku doubles United’s lead before halftime with a sumptuous half-volley off his knee.
Wanting to protect his lead, Evil José consults his bench.
He has no defenders on the bench other than Marcos Rojo.
Evil José forgot to put proper defenders on his bench.
Evil José doesn’t want to bring on Marcos Rojo because he is Marcos Rojo.
Nevertheless, genius always finds a way.
Sterling grabs a goal back to make it a nervy final ten minutes for United, but thanks to passages of play like this, Juan Mata calmly knocking the ball around on the deck with the entire United team camped inside their area, they hold out.
The game ends in perfect fashion as Luke Shaw dummies to take a throw-in for an entire minute to run out the clock.
They have four shots on target to City’s 16, seven shots in total to City’s 38, and only 34% possession.
Pep Guardiola could lose his job.
Evil Jose leaves the pitch with a hand cupped to his ear.
Lee C(l)attermole got booked in the 32ndminute.
Some people… some ideas, they will never die.
Evil José casts his mind back to a press conference before the must-win game against Burnley.
"Judge me on results," he said.
Let them judge me now, he thinks.
To be continued.