No divided loyalties for Mourinho as Tottenham face Man United

On the eve of Spurs manager’s return to Old Trafford, there’s not a syllable out of place

Spurs manager José Mourinho:  ‘I’m not a villain, I’m not an enemy. I am the coach trying to win against United that’s how the United fans are going to look at me.’ Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Spurs manager José Mourinho: ‘I’m not a villain, I’m not an enemy. I am the coach trying to win against United that’s how the United fans are going to look at me.’ Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

 

José Mourinho may have mentioned this once or twice. Actually, there has not been a press briefing during his short time at Tottenham when he has failed to do so. Yes, the manager is starring in an Amazon Prime documentary about the club’s season.

Mourinho was at it again on Tuesday, as he previewed Wednesday night’s visit to his former club Manchester United, which, incidentally, will be carried live by Amazon Prime. Turning his head down and towards the inside of his collar and the ever-present mic, he mentioned the US company and had a bit of fun speaking directly to them.

There would be a twist. “I’m also doing an episode for Netflix, ” Mourinho said, before detailing a sports documentary for Amazon’s great rival. “There are eight coaches from eight different sports, I’ve filmed it already. I don’t know when it comes out.” Cue the mock conspiratorial flourish. “But Amazon guys, they cannot know!”

Mourinho has not disparaged United and he was not about to do so before the game

It was classic Mourinho, an example of his adherence to the have-cake-and-eat-it model. In Amazon’s big week of Premier League football, here was one of their poster boys jumping into bed with the enemy. But do not call it a misstep, because Mourinho was in no danger of making a blunder.

Storm clouds

On the eve of his Old Trafford return, he went to great lengths to ensure there was not so much as a syllable out of place when it came to United – the club he left last December under storm clouds.

It was easy to imagine what he might have wanted to say, starting with Paul Pogba, United’s £89 million player, who he found so difficult to manage, particularly after the France midfielder reported for last season as a World Cup winner. Or how about the record of his successor, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has taken 26 points from 22 league games since being confirmed in the job on a permanent basis? Mourinho’s last 22 matches at United brought 35 points. Then there is Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, with whom he clashed over recruitment.

Mourinho has not disparaged United and he was not about to do so before the game. On the contrary. His relationship with United fans is strong: they sang his name when he went back to Old Trafford as a TV pundit, which “humbled” him. Mourinho wanted to make it clear he enjoyed good friendships with many of the club’s staff – from Woodward and the director, Richard Arnold, to the chef, who “calls me to ask how I am”.

“I’ve had this at every club at Christmas, on the phone will be Ed Woodward, Florentino Pérez, Massimo Moratti, Pinto da Costa,” Mourinho said, bringing in the presidents of Real Madrid, Internazionale and Porto respectively, although overlooking Roman Abramovich of Chelsea. “You have relations with people and this is very important.”

‘Closed chapter’

Mourinho described United as a “closed chapter”, an experience that is “in my history book”. He wanted to speak only about the club as an opponent. “I’m not a villain, I’m not an enemy,” he said. “I am the coach trying to win against United that’s how the United fans are going to look at me.”

For Mourinho it always comes down to trophies. “Mr Mandela said you never lose – you win or you learn,” he said. “At United, I won and I learned.”

From leading players down to the ballboys, it is about bolstering belief, instilling a shared sense of purpose

He did not go into specifics as to what he had learned, other than to say he and his assistants had not looked to blame anyone other than themselves for how it ended, but he was happy to remember the silverware.

“I have a couple of pictures of my time at United in my office at Spurs,” Mourinho said. “One with the Europa League trophy and my son in Stockholm [where the final was played] and one with the Carabao Cup, when you get the cup at the top of Wembley.”

Mourinho feels he is a “better coach now than when I was there”, and he continues to whisper sweet nothings into the ears of his Spurs players. He said he is “in love with” Son Heung-min, and Dele Alli could achieve “anything he wants”. The contract rebels, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen, are “great professionals”. This is what Mourinho does in the early stages. From leading players down to the ballboys, it is about bolstering belief, instilling a shared sense of purpose.

Spurs go to United brimming with confidence after three wins out of three under Mourinho, who is projecting an image of total happiness. Not that he was unhappy in Manchester, where he lived in an apartment at the Lowry hotel – a subject of no little lampoonery.

“I would be unhappy if I was in a house on my own,” Mourinho said. “I would have to clean; I don’t want. I would have to iron; I don’t know how to. I have to cook . . . I would cook fried eggs and sausages – that’s the only thing I can do. I lived in an amazing apartment: a flat with ‘bring me a latte, please’ or ‘I don’t want to go down for dinner, bring my dinner up’. I had everything. I was more than fine.”

– Guardian

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