Mourinho's all at sea in Man United colours
United boss seems slower and uninspired, like his team
(Tonny Vilhena 79)
MAN UNITED 0
Manchester United must be privately concerned.
Not publicly, and certainly not financially, but there has to be a growing sense that all is not well with Jose Mourinho.
Something is missing. He's not the Special One, but the one who divided dressing rooms in Madrid and Chelsea. The one who got the United job by default, rather than choice.
And as the meandering Red Devils face a thankless trip to Watford tomorrow, after two defeats in four days, it's really worth examining the fledgling relationship between a club and coach that is not a natural fit.
Their marriage of convenience already looks inconvenient.
In his press conference after United's dreadful performance in Feyenoord yesterday morning (Singapore time), Mourinho's blazer hung limply over slumped shoulders. It seemed fitting that his attire didn't fit properly.
The coat with the United crest resembled a straitjacket, as if Mourinho (right) is forcing himself to play the role of respected club statesman, one he is ill-suited for.
It just isn't him.
He's the cheeky scamp dashing down the touchline for Porto, the kissing and hugging coach at Chelsea, the eye-gouging monster in Madrid, the chief of the siege at Stamford Bridge.
What he cannot do, what he has never been able to do, is play nice.
It's just not part of Mourinho's make-up. He's a mischief-maker. He's not a compliant suit behind a club crest.
And it shows.
In the Manchester Derby, he was overly cautious, less risk averse than he usually is, and he's hardly a wild gambler at the best of times.
Any derring-do came from Pep Guardiola's merry men, tearing up both the turf and the rulebook as they made a mockery of Mourinho's predictable 4-2-3-1.
So he blamed the players, specifically and rather aggressively, singling out culprits by name, like a discipline master trying to impress the new principal.
He pretty much did the same after the Feyenoord defeat, slouching in his chair and mouthing criticisms, essentially imitating the sluggishness of his team.
This mumbling Mourinho looks a lot like the Mourinho coming to the end of his tether at Real Madrid and Chelsea as his hypnotic charisma deserted him.
The only obvious difference between United's listless display in the Europa League and those under Louis van Gaal was the man in the dugout.
Of course, it's only been four EPL games. Mourinho requires time to execute his ideas.
But by the same token, compare the coach now to his general demeanour after four games at Chelsea, Inter Milan or Real Madrid.
He exuded intensity. His personal magnetism pulled in players and journalists alike, leaving both hanging on his every word and instruction.
Former employees from that period speak as converted disciples to his messianic cause. Consider Frank Lampard or Didier Drogba's comments about Mourinho. They remain in awe of their Special One.
Then consider Eden Hazard, a resurrected artist under Antonio Conte, and his recent dig at his old manager when comparing Chelsea regimes.
The aura of invincibility has gone, replaced with an edgy uncertainty.
In the Manchester Derby, Mourinho played Brendan Rodgers to Guardiola's Mourinho, easily out-thought on the touchline.
Changes were made at half-time, but Guardiola trumped his foe again, sending on Fernando to become the second half's best player.
The experience had to be humbling. The second defeat at Feyenoord was bewildering. Mourinho appeared to have nothing, either on the touchline or in the press conference.
United should win at Watford - a third defeat is inconceivable - but as the hype fades, an uncomfortable reality is taking hold.
United didn't hire the Special One. They hired the other one. The only one available after Guardiola picked Manchester City.
The Red Devils know it. Guardiola certainly knows it. And a weary Mourinho seems to know it, too.
He's never been the "next best option" in English football before and he's struggling to make the adjustment.
Life was so much simpler when he was simply the best.