Mourinho’s sympathy for United’s plight another twist of the knife

Managerial hot seat becoming positively scorching now for David Moyes

Chelsea’s manager Jose Mourinho gestures during their Premier League victory over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge, London. Photograph: Reuters

Chelsea’s manager Jose Mourinho gestures during their Premier League victory over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge, London. Photograph: Reuters

Mon, Jan 20, 2014, 06:00

When Paul Merson is unimpressed by a player’s performance he is in the habit of declaring “he’s like a fish up a tree”, a curious enough assessment and one that he dusted down again at the weekend when talking about someone or other, the name lost during all that channel-hopping back and forth to Australia.

And however awful your sporting week was, even if you’re Connacht, at least you’re not the England cricket team. After yesterday’s mishap at Stamford Bridge you’d assume Merse would regard Moysie’s XI as an entire shoal up a tree, and, possibly, Moysie a fish out of water in the United hot seat. And that seat is so scorching now, it’s squeaky bum time for the poor man. But not in a thrilling-title-chasing way, more can-we-finish-above-Hull?

“If we’re going to die, we’ll die trying,” said Gary Neville when Moysie threw Javier Hernandez in to the fray when the score was 0-3, after Martin Tyler had expressed surprise that he hadn’t brought on a defender instead.

Those of you who chanted ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ at your tellies when you saw Jose Mourinho had selected Samuel Eto’o ahead of Fernando Torres should have buried your faces in shame when he completed his hat-trick, Jose’s nostrils flaring in the dugout in a ‘God, I’m awesome’ manner.

(Moyes: “I’m a Calamity, get me Eto’o here”. Tweeters? Be ashamed).

Before the game, Sky’s Geoff Shreeves failed to extract from Jose his tactical plans for the contest, showing him his formation on a snazzy graphic and asking the gaffer what he could tell the viewers about it.

“Normal,” shrugged Jose, saying he’d need payment (price: £10,000) if Geoff wanted more.

Geoff pleaded poverty, so that was that. For all he knew Eto’o would play as libero, with Cesar Azpilicueta, in a Moyes-mind-mangling manoeuvre, shifted to the hole behind the front none. (Azpilicueta is the player who, after joining Chelsea in 2012, revealed that his team-mates could not pronounce his name, so called him Dave instead. Sublime).

Geoff hoped for better luck with man of the match Eto’o in his post-heroics interview, but Samuel responded in French. And when Geoff asked him to give English a go – how are you enjoying life at Chelsea? – Samuel said “tres content” - which Francophobe Geoff asked John Terry to translate. ‘Very ’appy’. Spot on.

Time then for another chat with Jose and you realised just how deep United are in the doo-doo when he expressed nostril-flaring sympathy for them. That’s the kind of ‘ah bless’ stuff you normally reserve for, say, Hull, so the knife was twisted so lovingly you assumed the Glazers were heading to the Credit Union at that very moment to borrow some transfer loot.

“If you’d a Scholes in there…..,” said Glenn Hoddle back in the studio, attempting to diagnose United’s difficulties, an observation as useful as, say, “if you’d a Roy Keane, Denis Law, Nobby Stiles, Eric Cantona and Bobby Charlton in there you’d be laughing”. You would, but.

A shoal up a tree, then, but there is always hope. Look at Ana Ivanovic. World number one in 2008, and from there on it was downhill. Just the one Grand Slam quarter-final since. And then she beats – of all people – Serena Williams at the Australian Open. Having never taken a set off her before.

How the heck did she do it, she was asked on Eurosport.

“Well, she is also just a human,” said Ana. True. And a fish up a tree, on the day.

Moysie: “You and me both, Serena.”

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