The 54-year-old Manchester United manager has an enviable record of winning the domestic league in his second season in charge of every team he has coached since 2002.
In pre-season this achievement was used as powerful evidence that Jose Mourinho would replicate the feat for a fifth time and bring the title back to Old Trafford. This was in spite of the evident superiority of Manchester City’s squad. In contrast, it is The Citizens’ manager Pep Guardiola who has made the biggest step forward in his second year in charge. The Spaniard has imbued his players with a renewed sense of confidence and resilience and was rewarded with a run of 18 consecutive league victories. Although this was finally halted by Crystal Palace on New Year’s Eve, City now have a commanding 12 point lead, with a game to play over second placed Manchester United. Many people, myself included, regard the title as a one horse race.
Never one to take a possible defeat lying down, Mourinho has attempted, once again, to shape the public discourse in the hope of buying himself, and his players, time to recover. Rather than allowing journalists to focus on Man City’s record-breaking accomplishment, and Man United’s relative shortcomings, the former Chelsea boss has sought to distract the public by opening up a different debate.
His chosen target was Paul Scholes, who has criticised the recent performances of several of his former club’s players. Mourinho attacked the BT Sport pundit by suggesting the former midfielder was bitter at not having been employed as a coach at the club, and jealous of the amount of money players like Paul Pogba now earned. However, these assessments do not appear to hold much water. One would suspect that Scholes earned enough money in his stellar playing career not to be driven by financial greed, and would happily applaud Man United were they replicating the style and efficiency of their city rivals.
The former England international is unlikely to be too disappointed by Mourinho’s comments though. He will have seen Sir Alex Ferguson adopt similar tactics from the corridors of Old Trafford too many times for him to take the comments personally.