Mind games have been in a Premier League manager’s toolbox for a long time now. Sir Alex was lauded as a master, making Keegan and Benítez crack with it all caught on camera. Since then, every manager has, to some degree or another, attempted to manipulate the psychology of rival managers, players, even match officials.
A young José Mourinho pitched up at Chelsea, full of confidence that wasn’t quite arrogant due to its outlandishness and the cheeky glint in his eye. It undoubtedly was a form of mind games, the sort that only works if it delivers immediate success. Otherwise it makes the user appear ridiculous.
Any style of mind game needs to change over time. José knows this, even if he doesn’t believe on-field tactics need to evolve from one decade to the next. That blossoming young coach turned into a dour old man, who feels the world is against him and any team he manages.
To facilitate this belief, he relies on a heavy sprinkling of hypocrisy.
Take injuries. He famously said: “I never speak about injuries. Other managers, they cry, they cry, they cry when some player is injured. I don’t cry.”
Okay, he doesn’t literally cry, but no other manager this season has enjoyed talking about injuries more than Mourinho. It’s gotten to the point his stock remarks about his injuries have been exhausted so he’s taken to calling other managers liars when they announce an injury.
“But if I want to moan and cry like the others, I can cry for the next five minutes.”
The others aren’t crying and he’s the only one moaning. For a guy so convinced and obsessed he’s judged by different standards to the rest of planet Earth, it’s amazing he dared call out the honesty of fellow professionals. Surely that deserves some form of punishment?
He not so subtly alludes to this when concluding he wouldn’t have been allowed to make a public protest like Pep Guardiola regarding a political issue. This reveals the void of values within the man. Public figures have a duty to speak up when they see something wrong in the world.
Pep has stuck his head above the parapet to defend justice, free speech and democracy. The sort of values José likes to use and abuse.
However, you can’t expect a guy without morals to understand the need for ethical choices. He’d only ever make a modern-day equivalent of a “Free Nelson Mandela” speech if it got him off a touchline ban.
Mourinho can’t be invested in something like the Catalonia issue because it doesn’t involve him and therefore doesn’t really exist at all.
Heading into the Manchester Derby he moved onto lighter issues. After begrudgingly acknowledging City’s strengths, he added: “A little bit of wind and they fall.”
His remarks are transparent – and like his style of football – they’re boring. Clearly designed to plant a seed in the referee’s head, if there’s any justice (grab a dictionary, José), the officials will favour the City attackers to prevent accusations of playing to Mourinho’s tune.
What makes the remark more laughable (Ashley Flung aside) is how it comes on the back of Arsène Wenger being universally reprimanded for suggesting Raheem Sterling dives.
What José Mourinho requires is less in the way of mind games and a good dose of reality. It could be argued articles such as this means he’s doing something right. But he’s not getting under the skin of opposing teams anymore: he’s losing credibility.
He can’t even keep his own dressing rooms on-side, let alone disrupt others.
The biggest mind game he’s ever played and won has been on himself. He made José Mourinho think the world was against him, and keeps delivering faux evidence to plunge him deeper into an obvious depression.