Football

Buxton: Mourinho unwilling to learn from past mistakes

His lack of patience with quality players remains evident at Old Trafford

Jose Mourinho is living a real-life version of A Christmas Carol.

Ghosts past and present have failed to convince the Manchester United manager to heed the error of his ways after the League Cup holders' shock exit at the hands of Bristol City yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Unlike Ebenezer Scrooge, however, Mourinho remains unwilling to repent.

He carries on regardless, picking the same fights which have previously been his undoing.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan appears to be the latest object of the Portuguese's ire, with the Red Devils manager accusing some of his players of treating their wilful surrender at Ashton Gate as if it were simply another day at the office but did not feel like even turning up.

The Armenian playmaker's first outing in almost four weeks saw him afforded barely 20 minutes in which to help turn the tide back in United's favour.

He already knows that the odds are stacked against him in a collision course with Mourinho, a battle that his boss ultimately wins.

Or does he?

Mkhitaryan would not be the first, nor last, to expose Mourinho's flawed judgment; Old Trafford is already littered with daily reminders of his manager's reckless past behaviour.

Romelu Lukaku, at £75 million (S$135.1m), proved his most costly, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Juan Mata's contributions in the first 18 months of his United reign have shown the folly of his decision to cut them adrift before time at Inter Milan and Chelsea respectively.

He deemed Mata to be dispensable at Stamford Bridge but has come to rely on him as a creative outlet whose presence transforms an otherwise one-dimensional side's approach.

Ibrahimovic, too, has evolved into a player whom Mourinho relies on, despite also hastily offloading him to Barcelona in 2009, while he was in charge of the Nerazzurri.

Ultimately didn't deliver when he's played. He's not unlucky, he's lucky he gets to play for United. former Manchester United defender Phil Neville on Henrikh Mkhitaryan 

Beyond that inner sanctum, "ghouls" also exist close to home in the English Premier League.

Kevin de Bruyne remains the ultimate "one that got away" for the former Chelsea boss. Misgivings over attitude were behind the Belgium international's departure from west London.

Try telling that to the player who will spent Christmas comfortably atop the EPL table with Manchester City as a key catalyst in their increasingly leisurely procession to the title.

GROWING INFLUENCE

Mourinho experienced de Bruyne's growing influence first-hand just 12 days ago as he produced another Man-of-the-Match display that ultimately decided the Manchester Derby.

Mohamed Salah, similarly, continues to pull up trees on Merseyside.

I think one player Pep (Guardiola) would take out of Manchester United is Mkhitaryan. He might be available. Without doubt, he's a Pep-style player. He gets the ball, half turn and drives at players. He's a bit sharper than Ilkay Guendogan. former Tottenham Hotspur manager Tim Sherwood

He is already one of Liverpool's most prolific all-time scorers, belying the lack of game time offered to him during his time in the English capital.

At his current rate, with 20 goals in all competitions to date, the previously unfancied wide forward is on course to write his name alongside Ian Rush in Anfield folklore.

Europe's elite leagues have become another home for Mourinho's hasty cast-offs.

Like Ibrahimovic, Leonardo Bonucci was prematurely sold at Inter. The Italian defender is back across town, attempting to help AC Milan recapture former glories as their new captain.

Filipe Luis, another perceived misfit at Chelsea, is also a defensive mainstay of the Atletico Madrid side snapping at the heels of Barcelona in this season's La Liga title race.

By Mourinho's own admission, a breakdown in communication with Mkhitaryan had left his new recruit at a severe disadvantage during the formative months of his United career.

History is in danger of repeating itself once more for the former "Special One".

Only a Christmas miracle would stop the habit of a lifetime from again condemning him.

npsports@sph.com.sg

Football