It’s common in football for fans to get on the back of their manager when things aren’t going well.
Usually, the underperfoming gaffer will sympathise with the fans’ anger and brush off any hostility before inevitably being sacked at some point.
But Jose Mourinho has somehow manufactured a unique situation almost the exact opposite of this tried and tested narrative.
We’ve got the manager of a team performing well on the back of the fans who have done nothing wrong.
The ‘Special One’ has always been partial to a mind game or two, but inventing a feud with his own fans out of nothing takes it to another level.
How could this possibly benefit the club in any way?
Mourinho v the Old Trafford faithful is not a full scale war by any means but it’s an unnecessary skirmish at the very least.
It all started with a trademark bus-parking against Liverpool.
Understandably, the more ambitious fans were disappointed with Mourinho’s conservative approach in a game that means so much to those in Manchester.
The Portuguese gaffer has long stayed true to his defensive philosophy in big games and it’s put trophies in his cabinet.
In these post-David Moyes and Louis van Gaal days, the vast majority of United fans have welcomed Mourinho’s effective methods.
Sure, some may have been annoyed in the moment when the game was drifting harmlessly towards a nil-nil draw but the bigger picture is an agreeable one — United are vastly improved under Mourinho.
Then came a 1-0 win over Spurs in a game United clearly wanted to win.
Mourinho’s tactical approach was justified by the result and it was the perfect chance to endear himself to the fans after the slight tension created by drab Liverpool affair.
But instead of celebrating, he criticised United’s fans.
He interpreted the boos that accompanied the substitution of Marcus Rashford as criticism of Romelu Lukaku.
Speaking to MUTV after the game he said: “I would like the supporters to explain to me why they don’t support him [Lukaku] so much because he gives everything and I think it is not fair when scoring the goal or not scoring the goal makes the whole difference.
“I don’t think it is fair at all. So I’m a bit disappointed – but not with him. With him very pleased.”
I’m not at Old Trafford every other week but I haven’t sensed any anti-Lukaku sentimentality from United fans at all.
In fact, I thought they’d taken to his goalscoring ways rather warmly
The infamous penis chant may have been a tad naive but it came from a place of affection — not every player gets their own song.
I think Mourinho confused the fans love of homegrown hero Rashford with coldness towards Lukaku.
Either that or he’s using the Belgian forward as a shield from the (very minor) criticism of himself.
If this is the case, it’s incredibly unfair for Mourinho to plant the seed in Lukaku’s mind that he is not liked by the fans and surely detrimental to United’s season.
Denying the forward the chance to score from a penalty against Benfica can’t have done his morale any favours either.
If Mourinho has a weakness as a manager it’s his inability to let his ego take a bruise for the good of the team.
The fact that the winner against Spurs was scored by substitute Anthony Martial and was assisted by Lukaku should have been enough to satisfy Mourinho.
He was proved right.
But instead he felt the need to rub it in his own fans’ faces — an ill-advised ploy in any situation.
Mourinho’s programme notes for last night’s Champions League game with Benfica included the line: “I hope you enjoy the game more than some of you did against Tottenham.”
As if the fans’ disapproval of Rashford coming off equated to them not enjoying a win over one of the league’s strongest teams.
Quite what Mourinho hopes to achieve by distancing himself (and Lukaku) from the fans, I don’t know.
Perhaps, he’s already thinking of excuses in the event of Man City’s seemingly inevitable title win?
But if he truly wants to build a legacy at Old Trafford, as he has claimed previously, then he must respect the fans and put his ego aside.
Nobody, not even the ‘Special One’, is bigger than Man United.
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