You can see it in José Mourinho's eyes now. He's a dead man walking. The fire, the hunger, even the incessant desire for shithousery. They're gone. It's all gone. And what we have left is a frail, defeated football manager, a shadow of his former self.
What better way to test out Football Manager 2019 than by playing as Mourinho? Well, at least, by taking his current iteration - the gloomy fatalist - and just, well, turning him up to 11.
I call him Evil José, and this is what happens when you take every part of his psyche and extrapolate it to the very extremes of football management.
This is what happens when you buy Eden Hazard for 110 million pounds and try and convert him into a right wing-back.
When I begin the game Evil José is already disliked by Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp, which is good. Those are the sort of fancy-pants managers he should be annoying. The kind that have a fatherly relationship with their players. Obviously, he hasn’t yet spoken to any of his players. He hopes to keep it that way.
Almost immediately, he is thrust into a 'Club Philosophies' meeting with Ed Woodward, who outlines the following:
- Play attacking football
- Sign high profile players
- Sign young players
- Develop young players
Evil José pays no attention.
Instead, he begins searching for an assistant manager. John Terry doesn't fancy leaving Aston Villa so I turn to the next best option: his once-upon-a-time partner in crime Ricardo Carvalho, who, if anything, is slightly more dastardly anyway.
Evil José immediately turns to the transfer market, as he's not happy with what the current United squad has to offer. Michael Essien isn't on the game so instead he moves for a 16-year-old unrelated right-back called Harold Essien from Middlesbrough. He rejects United's contract offer.
Elsewhere, Tianjin Teda want 124 million real pounds for human final-whistle John Obi Mikel and Evil José receives only derisory offers for the transfer-listed Anthony Martial. Newcastle bid £11.75m.
Evil José tells Mike Ashley that will buy him precisely one finger in the post. Pogba, also transfer listed, receives no interest. Not even from Everton. Everton!
Cardiff want Scott McTominay on loan. Cardiff want Scott McTominay on loan. Evil José knows Warnock's shithouse game. He'll be going nowhere.
The two things Evil José seeks to address in the squad are the lack of a quality right-back and a replacement for the troublesome Pogba in midfield. A Roy Keane type.
Both Eden Hazard (£110 million) and Lee Cattermole (a ludicrous £7 million) are signed to plug those two gaps. For general Evil José purposes, get-it-in-the-mixer squad filler in the elongated shapes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Peter Crouch and Chris Samba are also signed.
Pepe, as he is the evilest bastard in the history of football, and Salomon Kalou, because he is Salomon Kalou, are also brought in. Evil José is very pleased with the transfer window.
At the press conference to introduce Hazard, Evil José is asked "What do you think is his best opposition?" by a pesky journalist. In the game interface, I/Evil José cannot respond with "RWB" as it is not allowed as an option. This limitation will be ignored.
Game 1: Fulham (H)
Evil José is extremely unhappy with Eric Bailly’s performance. Eight minutes have been played. McTominay on.
Hazard is looking dangerous down the flank from fullback early on. Another Evil José signing, Normal Pepe, is dominant.
However, Fulham have a great chance as Vietto beats McTominay down the right and crosses to the far post. Sessegnon gets there ahead of Ander Herrera, playing in his favoured position as part of a back three, but blazes over.
0-0 at HT. It might seem like a disappointing start but Lee Cattermole already has his first booking, 12 minutes into his United debut. At least there is that. Evil José is pleased.
In the second-half United go behind to an Aleksandar Mitrovic tap-in, so Evil José responds. Crouchy on for a triple target man system. Kalou at wing-back.
United create only one real chance, as Fellaini threads a ball into the porcelain feet of Crouch, who fires over.
In the dying embers of the game Pogba lumps a free-kick into the box. It is cleared, but only as far as Lee Cattermole, who has options left and right but chooses instead to knock a 60-yard pass back to David De Gea.
Evil José has never been more proud. Despite the tough loss, this is the United Way already. The signs are there.
Game 2: Watford (a)
Evil José bring Phil Jones and Chris Smalling into the side, and reshuffles his front line. McTominay partners Cattermole in midfield.
United go behind in the first half and things look bleak. Hazard runs the entire length of the pitch from right back and plants a perfect cross onto Fellaini’s head for their best chance.
He nods it over.
Fortunately, just before half-time, the referee gives a traditionally soft United penalty thanks to a tug on Peter Crouch’s kitchen apron-length shirt.
Hazard calmly tucks it away.
For the second-half assault Evil José brings on Kalou, Pogba and Sanchez, to see if they can earn his trust, like puppies invited in from the cold after they chewed up the new DFS sofa.
Almost immediately, after watching Cattermole pass the ball into Doucoure and Capoue’s shins for 45 minutes, Pogba cuts Watford open with a glorious 50-yard ball that puts Sanchez one on one.
Straight at Ben Foster.
United create a flurry of chances, almost exclusively through mazy Hazard dribbles down the right. From a free-kick, the diminutive Belgian whips in a great ball to find the gigantic Belgian Fellaini, and he forces a save. Promptly, Cattermole almost puts one in his own net with a sliced clearance. And then, in the final moments, Sanchez latches on to a hopeful Smalling hoof to race clear.
He is brought down, and United have a chance to win the game in the 95thminute.
As I/Evil José haven’t set penalty takers, Pogba grabs the ball, hoping to convert a literal shot at redemption. Pogba places the ball. Pogba runs up. Pogba runs up some more. Pogba is still running up. An eternity passes. Still going. Four in-game years have passed. The ice caps have all but melted. Pogba connects. Pogba misses the penalty.
Somewhere, Graeme Souness explodes into a million red skittles. He is fuming. To be fair, Evil José is also fuming. I am fuming.
After the game the fans quickly turn on Evil José's signing of Kalou. Another example of him spending far too much on past-it players, they argue. Evil José makes a mental note to start Kalou in the next game.
United have Cardiff at home next, a must-win game against the real-life manager mostly closely resembling Evil José in anti-football philosophy – Neil Warnock.
It has a proper, awful, shithouse, only-game-on-a-Super-Sunday-that-isn't-super-at-all vibe about it, even this early into the league season.
At the pre-match press conference, a hack journalist named Bayley Barlow claims that United didn’t have the best time against Watford. He wants to know how they’ll react. Evil José storms out, as a symbolic gesture.
The headline the next day is simple: "Jose goes berserk."
An already must-win home encounter against Cardiff is exactly the kind of game which, in an ideal world, all 22 players would be Cattermole.
It's exactly the kind of game that Lee Cattermole attacks like a bulldog would a musky old tennis ball. It is exactly the kind of game that sees Lee Cattermole get sent off inside 20 minutes.
Evil José cannot drop him. He is Evil José's Roy Keane. And he can’t play Nemanja Matic, as he is still horribly unfit. Even Evil José wouldn’t play Nemanja Matic operating at 50%. That's like a normal footballer operating at 25%.
But he needs a foil. Someone to step in alongside Cattermole in central midfield to do all the dirty work, leaving the former Sunderland captain to do what he does best – consistently and relentlessly pass the ball to the opposition.
There’s only one man for it. Evil José decides Phil Jones is playing centre midfield.
That move, obviously, leaves a gigantic hole in his three-man defence. And Evil José is not happy with the ability of his defenders in terms of playing out from the back. He's tried Herrera, he's tried McTominay. Bailly and Lindelof are, according to Normal José, completely useless. You can imagine what his evil counterpart thinks.
Juan Mata it is.
Things begin disastrously when Luke Shaw, with absolutely acres of space in front of him down the left, decides to stick his blonde head down towards his toes and plough into a large group of players in the middle of the park. He immediately loses the ball.
Harry Arter, sensing an opportunity and keen to impress his national team assistant manager, Actual Roy Keane, lumps it downfield. Danger.
Six-foot-four Kenneth Zohore is being marked by Mata, who is playing slap bang in the middle of the back three as a kind of libero.
Six-foot-four Zohore shrugs him off like a dehydrated buffalo swatting a fly and bundles the ball past De Gea and into the net. 1-0 Cardiff.
Mata, presumably, is mentally already 100 words deep into his post-match blog.
Things immediately go from bad to worse when Arter, having the game of his life, fluffs in an effort from the edge of the box. De Gea transforms into the Spanish national team De Gea and resembles a drawbridge closing, completely missing the ball as it drifts into the corner. 2-0 Cardiff. 20 minutes gone.
Things are looking ugly for Evil José.
Fortunately, he has Hazard: right wing-back extraordinaire.
Hazard picks up the ball on the right after being fed a typically turgid, sorry square ball by Fellaini. He sprints down the wing, rather than running into the most congested area of the pitch like the giddy child Luke Shaw, swinging in a cross to the far post.
Shaw, by this point is literally doing whatever he likes, is on the goal line to tap in. Comeback on.
Rinse and repeat for the equaliser. Hazard beats four players down the line, whips it in, and guess who is there to read it?
Well, the Cardiff City goalkeeper Smithies. But he fucks it up. He completely fucks it.
And then guess who is there?
It's only Salomon Kalou to knock in the rebound.
Incredibly, United go in at half time 3-2 to the good after Ibrahimovic gets 'shoved', not actually, but in the Manchester United-Howard Webb sense, in the box.
Thankfully, with Pogba dropped, only one man is going to step up and take it. Libero Mata, who tucks home. What a turnaround.
The second half is all United, and they even briefly return to the swashbuckling back-to-front stylings of Ferguson’s best sides. After defending a corner kick, De Gea goes quickly to the midfield, wisely choosing to ignore ball-playing Mata to hit the even-more ball-playing Cattermole. He sprays it out wide to Hazard, gets it back, plays a one-two with the big Ent stomping around in the hole and then switches gloriously again to Shaw.
Shaw has clearly learned a thing or two watching Hazard and sprints to the byline to fire in a flat cross. Ibra pounces. 4-2. They're cruising.
The confidence starts to show. Mata wins a header. Cattermole doesn’t get booked. Fellaini nods yet another great chance over the bar in exquisite Fellaini fashion.
Evil José brings on McTominay and Herrera to shithouse around for the remaining 20, and also tries Sanchez at left wing-back because Shaw is always, always tired after the first half, let alone 70 minutes. It finishes 4-2.
Three points and a man of the match for Eden 'Wing-Back' Hazard.
After the game, Warnock moans to the press about the physicality of Evil José’s side, particularly against Zohore.
He was being marked by Mata.
Whilst this is a huge personal victory for Mourinho, vanquishing his pretender to the throne in Warnock, there is still work to be done in the war against football with the likes of Klopp, Sarri and even Guardiola and his All or Nothing army awaiting.
To be continued...