What made Jose Mourinho 'special' isn't working anymore, and his act is starting to become quite tired.

By 90Min
March 15, 2018

Those playing a game of 'post-defeat Mourinho press conference bingo' will have filled up their squares pretty quickly after Manchester United's dismal 1-2 home loss to Sevilla sent them out of the Champions League on Tuesday night with barely a whimper.

A surly attitude? Tick. Refusal to blame his tactics? Tick. Random controversial comment to try to draw attention away from the poor performance? Tick. This was peak modern Jose Mourinho, but the act is becoming very, very tired.

It wasn't always like this. Mourinho has always had a reputation for building solid defensive teams, but in the past there was still excitement going forward.

His Chelsea team from 2004-2007 were notorious for not conceding goals, but were still a joy to watch in attack with the likes of Didier Drogba, Arjen Robben, Frank Lampard and Damien Duff causing havoc in opposition defenses.

Likewise at Inter, Mourinho still played on the cautious side but also utilized attacking players such as Samuel Eto'o, Diego Milito and Wesley Sneijder effectively, which led to the side winning the treble in 2009-2010.

A big turning point came in his time at Real Madrid, when his side were utterly humiliated 5-0 against Barcelona at the Nou Camp in 2010. For a man who puts so much emphasis on defending well, this would have been a hammer blow to Mourinho's confidence, and arguably ever since that night something within him changed.

Now we don't see a manager with a preference towards defensive tactics. We see a manager utterly obsessed with them, to the point where no matter who the opponent is, it is always safety first.

Let's be clear about this. Man for man, Manchester United are a better team than Sevilla. The Mourinho of ten years ago would have looked at their squad, looked at his own squad and thought 'we will beat them'. 

He would have gone out and attacked, giving his flair players like Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial license to run at a frail Sevilla defense, one that conceded five goals in games against both Eibar and Atletico Madrid in La Liga in February respectively.

Instead what we saw was an utterly pathetic display of safe, sideways passing football, with a team playing not to their own strengths but simply waiting for Sevilla to make a mistake. They didn't, and United were punished for a horrendous failure of judgment from Mourinho.

It is almost as if because Mourinho receives so much criticism for his tactics, he's encouraged to use them even more. This is one of the most stubborn men we have ever seen in management.

There was nothing he'd have loved more than to see United scrape to a 1-0 win, his smug, gloating face finding the nearest camera to wink at, delighted to have shut up the critics and continue his 'me against the world' crusade.

But he didn't win, and the knives will be being sharpened by both fans and the press all week. The arrogant, swaggering Mourinho of the past would have bounced back from this miserable defeat, yet below the surface of his apparently still-confident demeanor, there appears to be a certain frailty about Mourinho these days. 

It is not unfair to liken him to Arsene Wenger; they are two men who have become lost in the whirlwind of modern day football, swept away by the fresh young talents of Pep Guardiola and numerous others.

It is hard to see where Mourinho and United go from here. They still have second place and the FA Cup to fight for, but after crashing out of the Champions League in such a feeble manner, the main priority may be getting fans back on their side. 

The only way they will do that is by playing the attacking football that supporters of the famous old club are so desperate to see, but Mourinho now seems so entrenched in the defensive side of things that it is difficult to see the leopard changing his spots anytime soon. 

Fans at Old Trafford will be behind their team from the start in the FA Cup quarter final tie against Brighton on Saturday, but if the side play anything like the football they did against Sevilla, the atmosphere could turn nasty quickly, and life could start to get very complicated for Mourinho. 

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