It looked like a crazed wrestler going to town on ringside paraphernalia: the big swinging boot and then the body slam of the bottle carrier, the rage in the eyes.
In fact, this was just Jose Mourinho’s latest way of celebrating a last-minute winner, or rather his latest way to court the attention.
The Manchester United manager stopped just short of administering a big leg-drop and tearing off his shirt after Marouane Fellaini’s injury-time winner against Young Boys on Tuesday, although he did continue the theme afterwards by delivering yet another bout of WWE-standard trash talk.
“First of all, let me send a message to my lovers and say I play Champions League 14 years and qualify 14 times,” he said in his post-match press conference. “And the years where I didn’t play Champions League, I won the Europa League twice. So in 16 years, 14 times I qualify. Just a little curiosity for my ‘lovers’ and lovers of the stats.”
Win, lose or draw, Mourinho always has an answer for everything. There is forever a slant he can find which absolves him of blame. His post-match interviews and press conferences see him do everything but grab the microphone from his unwitting interlocutors and bellow a message to his enemies right down the barrel of the camera.
And nobody is safe, least of all Manchester United and its players. He is forever dissing his playing staff in public, with the recent dig at many of his younger stars for doing nothing more than acting like young men of the 21st century being the latest barb. That coming after two years of prepared monologues aimed at everyone from Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling to Ed Woodward and even United as a club – think “I’ve sat in this chair twice before, with Porto – Man Utd out, with Real Madrid – Man Utd out, so this is nothing new for this club.”
At times it feels as though Mourinho would rather see his narrative perpetuated than his trophy hopes bolstered. When United were dumped out of the Carabao Cup by Derby County at Old Trafford earlier this season, he claimed that he knew the game was up when his list of penalty takers was reduced to centre-backs Phil Jones and Eric Bailly just weeks after his concerted attempts to persuade the club’s decision-makers to bring in alternative central defensive options.
He has even cited United’s slow start to the Premier League season, which sees them sit in seventh place heading to struggling Southampton this weekend, as proof that he was right in identifying last year’s runners-up finish as one of his greatest achievements in the game. It is as though he is revelling in the possibility to claim that he was right rather than fretting at the lack of direction currently being demonstrated in his side’s play.
This is all completely unedifying for a club like Manchester United. To listen to Mourinho talk you would think that United are Huddersfield Town, with little in the way of a top-flight pedigree. But his constant attempts to over-emphasise some of United’s issues in recent years are kidding nobody.
Sure, United have been far from their best on or off the field since 2013. The losses of Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill would be difficult for any club to rally from, and the Red Devils are finding it every bit as tough as their rivals might have hoped.
But things were not so bad when Mourinho first walked through the doors at Carrington in 2016 that he can’t have been expected to finish within 19 points of the league champions after more than £300 million ($383m) of investment in transfer fees alone.
It has got to the point where you can almost set your watch by the Portuguese’s outbursts. United are knocked out of Champions League? He takes the opportunity to boast his victories over them in the past. They concede three goals at home? Well that’s simply one goal for every Premier League trophy he has won elsewhere. United scrape into the last 16 in Europe after a dismal performance? Now’s the chance for him to remind people how often he’s made it to the same stage over his career.
Mourinho does not act nor speak like a man who has Manchester United’s best interests at heart. Rather he has his own ego at the forefront, and if that so happens to help United along the way then that’s fine too.
One of the oldest sayings in football is that no one man is bigger than any club, but Mourinho clearly doesn’t believe that for a second. His ego is running away with itself, and United fans are quickly losing patience with him as a result.