In the movie ‘What Women Want’ starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt, Gibson acquires superhuman powers after being struck by lightning one night. But his powers are not like the ones we are used to in DC Comics or Marvel Comics superheroes.
His power was simple and addressed a clear and present problem: reading the mind of his girlfriend. Imagine if you could read know what your partner wants at any moment? You could make them love you completely and live happily ever after with them right?
Ed Woodward, the Chief Executive of Manchester United, has a massive problem. He’d give anything to be struck by a benign lightning to bestow on him the neccessary superpowers to know or understand what his manager, Jose Mourinho really wants.
It all began before the season started. First, he took a swipe at Pogba’s performance at the World Cup wondering why the player doesn’t reproduce the same performances at the club.
During pre-season warm-up matches, he wore a permanent scowl on his face like a boy scout who just got his first summer camp medal would spot a constant smug grin.
The sullen look on Mourinho only came off when he wanted to unburden his mind about problems affecting his universe. He complained about his players getting injured, not returning early enough for training, going home to visit newborn babies….anything that didn’t fit his template of a perfect world got a taste of his sharp tongue.
Sometimes, you get the feeling that inside the man is a windup machine set to perpetually crank out old, tired lines about the things wrong with his life as a manager.
Jose Mourinho feeds on sadness. If he had a halo around his head, it would be a dark malevolent cloud threatening to unleash unspeakable evil on the rest of us.
Mourinho has also complained about this: the United board led by Woodward didn’t support him enough in the transfer market. He didn’t get the players he wanted and they expect him to miraculously win things.
That is just Mourinho-speak implying it won’t be his fault if United don’t win anything significant this season. And if they somehow win something, it is a testament to his genius that he could triumph in face of the odds stacked against him.
You have to wonder how the current players at the club are feeling at the moment. The manager, the person they expect to guide them through the campaign, is directly telling the world they are not good enough.
And that is why he needs more players. Not just any player, but better ones and the best money can buy.
But the facts about the club’s lack of support for him are not kind to his narrative.
Since Mourinho came in three seasons ago, he had brought in a total of 10 outfield, first team players costing the club about $390 million.
In his first season, the club backed him to the hilt when they paid a world record fee of $114 million for Paul Pogba. He also added Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the squad.
Though Ibrahimovic came as a free agent, his sign-on bonus and wages cost the club a princely sum. Not many clubs can afford to pay the player that much.
Players such as Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof Henrik Mkhitaryan, Alexis Sanchez, Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku, and recently Fred and Diogo Dalot from Shakhtar Donetsk and Porto respectively were added to the squad on his recommendation.
All these players were in addition to the players he met when he was hired.
Mourinho knows how the transfer market works. You can’t just buy a player from any club just because you want them. The player must be willing to come and the club must be ready to sell.
Many of the players he demanded this summer couldn’t arrive for these and so other reasons. For instance, Leicester were not interested in selling Harry Maguire even though the United were ready to meet their asking price.
The defender instead, signed a new, improved contract with the club.
Ed Woodward and the board though have to also contend with how Mourinho works with players. It is a fair guess they are not too impressed.
All indications point to a trial and error strategy. He wanted Bailly and Lindelof because he was convinced they were very enough. Now he needs more defenders because both players are not good.
He also desires an upgrade on $96 million Lukaku because the striker has fallen short of his standards. It is from the same strategy that saw the exit of Mkhitaryan who at one time was lauded as a brilliant purchase.
This trial and error thing…? That is costing United a huge amount. Unfortunately, that is money they don’t have to throw on their manager’s whims.
PSG would be the best fit for his project the way he is going.
What Mourinho really wants, clearly, is to be acknowledged as the undisputed best.
His ego needs to be massage the way some politicians need constant bootlickers to remind them they are the best thing to happen to humanity since God said,
light there be light.