Mourinho Ups The Ante

Richard Heathcote

The Happy One is back to his old ways.

It didn't take that long after all. After a couple of weeks of playing nice, Jose Mourinho's back to his old tricks. If the cheeky comment about secret medicals were meant as an opening barb to his onetime protege and fashion-rival Andres Villas Boas, his recent one about the Wayne Rooney situation reeks of a man eager to get down and dirty.

When questions about The Wayne Rooney Saga (TM) and it's effect on his relationship with the Old Trafford faithful were raised in his weekly presser, this is what The One Elated With Himself had to say:

"But I didn't say [to Rooney] you will be a second-choice for me. And they are against me?"

Okay. Not bad, right? Wait.

"We are trying to get a player that a manager told 'You will be a second option' for him. We are not going for Van Persie. They don't have to be against me. If I say Ramires is a second option for me and he plays when Lampard is tired or injured, if someone comes here to get Ramires, nobody is upset."

Nice. So now he's telling Rooney that Moyes considers him the Ramires of the team, as against Golden Boy RVP. Surely he would stop there. Before making an even more direct attack on Moyes? So what did Mou say when asked, "Do you think this saga is all Moyes' fault?".

"Of course."

Then, once the knife had been sufficiently twisted, Moyes was offered some lovely, friendly words by The Saintly One.

"In every big team, I am not criticising, you have first options and second options, and those second options must be very good players."

So the Devious One is up to his tricks again, and has laid down the gauntlet to David Moyes. How our manager responds is going to be interesting - he cannot take the approach Sir Alex would (and did) any more than Mourinho could have said this if Sir Alex was in charge. That should not be a slight or a sign of weakness - if Moyes recognizes that he has not earned the right to trash talk at the top table, it is the sign of a man comfortable and confident in himself. I for one would be happy if Moyes comes out and says, "Talk is cheap. This is football." and ignores the rest of the comments deliberately aimed at getting a rise out of him and Wayne.

One thing is for sure - don't believe one word that Rio Ferdinand says. This game tonight is every bit as important as any we'd play against City or Liverpool. Win, and the David Moyes reign will truly be up and running. The gloves are off, as always, with United v Chelsea.

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