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11th Dec 2017

Jose Mourinho’s reason to start tunnel dispute says everything about what he has become

"You f***ing show respect. Who are you?"

Robert Redmond

There was reportedly a brawl in the Old Trafford tunnel following the Manchester derby on Sunday.

By all accounts, Jose Mourinho and some Manchester United players showed more aggression in the fracas than they had displayed during a strangely meek performance in the 2-1 loss. According to Daniel Taylor, writing in The Guardian, the United manager took exception to Manchester City’s boisterous dressing room celebrations and became involved in an argument with Ederson.

The Brazilian goalkeeper and Mourinho traded insults, before the United manager accused him of time-wasting and then screamed at him:

“You fucking show respect. Who are you?”

Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with Mourinho’s career will find his demand for “respect” amusing. This is a man who has rarely shown his opponents respect after a victory, particularly against teams coached by Pep Guardiola.

We all remember him charging around the Nou Camp pitch after Inter Milan advanced past Barcelona in the 2010 Champions League semi-final.

However, there’s no point in listing Mourinho’s acts of disrespect, there are just too many, and they really are beside the point. Because Mourinho wasn’t actually concerned with City showing a lack of respect. Once again, this was Mourinho deflecting from his own shortcomings by focusing on his opponent’s actions. He was lashing out because there was nothing left to do after his team had been comprehensively outplayed. This was evident a few minutes after the tunnel dispute, when the United manager spoke to the media.

“Manchester City are a very good team and they are protected by the luck, and the gods of football are behind them,” he said.

Only Mourinho could boil Sunday’s game down to “luck” for the opposition, who have the support of the “gods of football” and benefited from a referee’s error. This isn’t as bad as when he claimed Guardiola’s Barcelona were getting favourable decisions because they wore Unicef’s logo on their jerseys, but it’s pretty bad. In truth, Sunday’s defeat exposed United’s shortcomings and his line to kick-off the fracas, about Ederson lacking “fucking respect”, conveys how desperate he has become. There were no legitimate excuses left for Mourinho.

United and City have both spent a lot of money in the transfer window, their wage bills are almost identical and Guardiola and Mourinho took over teams in virtually identical states. The two clubs finished level on points in the 2015/16 season, City earned fourth place because of a superior goal difference. One club in Manchester is funded by petrodollars, the other is a commercial juggernaut. They have equal resources, yet Sunday’s match was evidence of 18 months of work for both coaches, and it’s clear that Guardiola has improved City to a much greater extent than his counterpart has improved United.

The fact people have bemoaned Paul Pogba’s absence conveys this, as, regardless of how good the French midfielder is, a team of United’s resources shouldn’t be reliant on one player. City certainly aren’t, despite having brilliant individual players.

Their victory was one for imagination, creativity and coaching, for being proactive and trusting players’ talent, over reactionary football. Guardiola improves attacking players, such as Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Kevin de Bruyne, while Mourinho discards them or leaves them to their own devices. He rarely uses Juan Mata, has ostracised Henrikh Mkhitaryan, because he has struggled to thrive within his limited tactical framework, and can’t escape blame for Romelu Lukaku’s performances. The Belgian striker has been awful recently, but he looks lost within Mourinho’s system and unable to make anything of the limited service provided. How many attacking players can one say Mourinho has genuinely improved at United? How many players at City have not improved under Guardiola?

Guardiola’s side are more than the sum of their parts, they finished the game with a back-four of Kyle Walker, Nicholas Otamendi, Eliaquim Mangala and Fabian Delph, no-one’s idea of a title-winning defence. While Mourinho bemoans the absence of individual players, and relies on individuals to produce a moment of magic, to exploit opposition mistakes and wait for the game to “break.” This was exposed as arguably outdated on Sunday, if not beforehand. If one was to be harsh on the United manager, you could argue that he has become that which he has derided in the past – an Arsene Wenger figure.

Mourinho isn’t a “specialist in failure”, as he called the Arsenal manager, but he is out of the title race by Christmas, he spent post-match interviews blaming the referee, seems blind to his own shortcomings and appears to have been tactically bypassed. That’s peak levels of Arsene Wenger.

Guardiola used the word “honest” in his post-match interviews on Sunday, and it was fitting. After all the hype leading up the match – Phil Neville called it the biggest Manchester derby in history – all the bluster about United still being in the title race, and Mourinho potentially getting one over Guardiola, there was no disguising the gulf in quality between the two teams and the two coaches.

It’s also possible that this marks the point of Mourinho coming to an end at Old Trafford. There’s little to suggest that he can ever get the better of Guardiola while in England, and it’s very likely that the United players will tire of his confrontational style of management and reluctance to play in an expansive manner, as what happened at Real Madrid and Chelsea. There are no more excuses, no-one to blame and no-where to hide, the emperor was shown to have no clothes. All that was left for Mourinho on Sunday was to rage about a lack of “fucking respect.”