Anti-football must not triumph
Mourinho makes his players shrink whenever they face 'big' opponents
Two men are largely responsible for Manchester United being the world's biggest club.
Two managers took charge of also-rans and turned them into aesthetes. Their profession was football, but they were really in the beauty business.
Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson didn't simply establish a theatre of domestic supremacy, but a theatre of dreams, a subtle distinction that Jose Mourinho chooses to ignore.
For this reason, his tedious devotion to anti-football should not triumph.
For the good of the game, Manchester City must win the title this season.
United's turgid display at Anfield on Saturday was the anarchic equivalent of a dictator setting fire to an art gallery, just to show that he can, just to remind feeble purists that he will prevail. His way is the only way to a football empire.
But it isn't and never has been.
Man City scored seven times against Stoke City in a breathtaking display, orchestrated by their red-headed conductor.
Kevin de Bruyne's baton produced the sweetest music. But the tone-deaf Mourinho was immune to the Belgian's mini-symphonies, selling him for a pittance at Chelsea.
Instead, Mourinho lamented the loss of Marouane Fellaini ahead of the annual trudge at Liverpool, a footballer whose first touch usually comes from the elbow.
Even Louis van Gaal was once embarrassed to use the bruising Belgian.
Ironically, van Gaal's presence at Anfield earned an ovation from the away supporters, his alleged crimes against United soon forgotten. Perhaps it's not so much the passage of time, but the passages of play under Mourinho.
Van Gaal advocated possession football at all costs. Keep the ball, move sideways if necessary, but never give it away.
Mourinho could hardly care less about the ball. He's elevated anti-football to an art form, content to concede possession and any pretence of playing an attractive game to his opponents.
Romelu Lukaku made 11 passes. Reds goalkeeper Simon Mignolet made 22.
United didn't drop back into their own half at Anfield, but into their own third.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, a lovely craftsman when permitted a licence to operate, was anonymous. Juan Mata, a visionary capable of exploiting the space between Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno, never made it off the bench.
Mourinho still doesn't fancy him in the big games.
“The only thing I can say is that I am still a coach with worries, ambitions, desires to do new things. I’m sure I will not finish my career here (in Manchester).”Man United manager Jose Mourinho, in an interview with Telefoot yesterday
Nor does he care what dewy-eyed romantics think either.
"There are lots of poets in football, but they don't win titles," he once said.
It's a good Mourinho line, but not a particularly original one.
In the 1980-81 season, Stoke manager Alan Durban faced a media grilling after a 2-0 defeat by Arsenal.
"If you want entertainment, go and watch a bunch of clowns," he snapped.
Then and now, that line of thought works for Stoke and perhaps any other club that cannot boast a net spend of around £250 million (S$448m). That's United's outlay under Mourinho.
Liverpool's net spend under Juergen Klopp is around £30m.
The Beatles were wrong. Money can buy love in football. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City and now Paris Saint-Germain are proof of that.
Even Claudio Ranieri's Leicester challenged Mourinho's philosophy, springing those electrifying counter-attacks to win the title with aplomb.
Compared to United's cynicism, Ranieri's crusaders were Cruyff-like in their creativity.
Mourinho's attacks on the game's "poets" are invaribly directed towards the likes of Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger, managers who are revered in a fashion that irritates the serial winner.
The cult of Wenger, in particular, has bothered Mourinho for years. The United manager seems at a loss to understand the (dwindling) respect for a "specialist in failure".
Don Revie felt the same way about Brian Clough. Revie's cynical, title-winning Leeds sides were respected, but Clough's swashbucklers at Derby and Nottingham Forest were often loved.
Revie struggled with the adoration lavished upon his managerial rivals. He won trophies regularly.
Why wasn't that enough?
The answer is as obvious then as it is now. For underdogs like Leicester and Stoke, winning is everything.
For United, however, winning should never be enough. Winning is a prerequisite, the bare minimum for the most popular sports club on earth.
They don't have to be the greatest show on earth, but to not even try is to wilfully dismiss United's legacy.
Mourinho expresses his pride at managing such a big club, but then makes his players shrink whenever they face a "big" opponent.
Each cynical 0-0 draw lowers playing standards and expectations further at a club that once gloriously set the bar for thrilling entertainment.
At City, Guardiola aspires to something higher, something purer, something that appeals to the eternal football fan in all of us. He deserves to be rewarded accordingly.
As for Mourinho, an elite football manager should no longer be rewarded for refusing to play football.