The most important commodity in football? It's not goals. It's not points. It's not even money, despite what Ed Woodward would have you believe. No, it's class. If you have it, then even your most embarrassing moments of professional incompetence will be accepted with a nod. And if you don't, then you're The Worst.
Jose Mourinho has no class. We know this because, well, we know this, but we also know this because the Independent have told us so. After Wayne Rooney broke the Manchester United goalscoring record on Saturday, Jose Mourinho was notably cool about the achievement. According to Ian Herbert:
When the question was put to him whether Rooney would want to end his days in China, most would have hoped for a decent, heart-felt response. Namely, that he would always be welcome at the club … “You will have to ask him. The future belongs to him…”
Mourinho knows the news machine well enough to intuit how his observations would look in print. And sure enough, by 10.30pm the finale of a Football Writers’ Association gathering in London to mark Rooney’s extraordinary career on Sunday coincided with their publication: ‘Rooney can go if he wants.’
Yet when Rooney equalled Sir Bobby Charlton’s record against Reading a few weeks ago, the best Mourinho could offer was that breaking it would be even better.
And of course:
If a Liverpool player had been on the brink of such a record it is hard to imagine Jurgen Klopp not being present in London at an FWA event to mark it. The same would apply to Pep Guardiola and a Manchester City player. Yet this is how things are with Mourinho, an individual too self-absorbed to understand that it’s not just about him. His Rooney responses have been cold to the point of austerity.
There's plenty more here if you want it.
The point of all this is not to have a go at Herbert, who seems to be a perfectly acceptable human being as far as journalists go. (Joke!) Nor is it to point out that had Mourinho said "of course he'll always be welcome here", then the headlines would inevitably have read 'Rooney To Stay At United'. Which might not be true. And nobody wants to force a newspaper to print something untrue.
The reasons why Mourinho might have been classless in this particular moment are fairly obvious. Stoke away marked the beginning of a run of games from which United need to squeeze maximum points in order to get into the top four, and they cocked it up. You can understand why he might have been in a bad mood.
More generally, Mourinho has only had charge of Rooney for this season and his captain is, in some ways, more a headache than anything else. Relegating a key player to squad status is never easy, particularly when the player in question is also captain of club and country, well liked and respected by his colleagues, frequently idolised in the press, and tied to a massive contract that makes him the face of the utterly-crucial branding exercise that is the modern Manchester United.
Records like this are odd things, at once exceptionally significant and totally beside the point. For Mourinho, 245 of the 250 have been scored either by an opponent or an irrelevance, and the fact of Rooney breaking it under his management is simple coincidence. It secures Rooney a place in footballing history, but it will only mean one more point at the end of the season. It helps Mourinho in his job exactly that much, and no further.
So, does Mourinho's classlessness matter? This is a question to which tBB doesn't pretend to have a definitive answer, and if you have a view, please put it in the comments. But there two points that are perhaps worth bearing in mind. The first is that the wider point of Herbert's article — "The prerequisite of managing such a storied institution as United is an understanding of its history" — is something that Mourinho has, a touch surprisingly, paid deference to over this season.
At least with respect to some things. He's been at pains to point out that he's trying to play more attractive football, as befits the popular perception of the club's history, and he's also made a point of acknowledging United's away support. All good PR, of course … which is exactly what going to the FWA's Rooneyfest would have been as well. Still, this makes it look less like a case of total self-absorption; more a balancing of priorities.
(Who knows, it could even be management. Nobody needs the rest of the season turning into a Rooney testimonial, least of all Rooney.)
The other thing to bear in mind is that a certain amount of singleminded classlessness is exactly what United signed up for. As was reported a few weeks ago, Mourinho introduced himself to his players by explaining that when his team doesn't win, he is an awful person to be around. That is what has, in the past, driven him to poke innocent bystanders in the eye, hide in laundry baskets, and myriad other sins against class, decorum, and sensibilities. That's why United, so the story goes, went with David Moyes.
And if there's one thing we can be sure of, it's that if Rooney had broken the record during a disappointing result under Moyes, he'd have been only too happy to talk and talk and talk about Rooney's magnificent achievement, his admirable character, his example to the youth of Britain … about anything except the dropped points. A nicer man? Probably. Certainly a classier one. Didn't save him in the end, though.
Anyway, do you think Mourinho is a classless berk? And do you care? (And does it even make sense to talk of class, when considering a football club that is owned by the Glazers and proudly boasts of its official tractor partner?)