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Jose Mourinho: the mind games are back!

Manchester United’s manager is warming up for the derby in his own inimitable fashion.

Manchester United v CSKA Moskva - UEFA Champions League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

As Benjamin Franklin would have noted, had he not died in 1790, nothing can be said to be certain except death, taxes, and Jose Mourinho saying Things before a big game. And he would have been right, old B-Franks: the Manchester derby is looming large, and Manchester United’s manager has been saying Things.

City’s players dive! Or, more precisely, “a little bit of wind and they fall”. He’s probably thinking here specifically of Raheem Sterling, who is developing a nice sideline in ostentatious penalty box collapses. Or he might just be trying to inoculate tomorrow’s referee against the fact that Phil Jones might play, and if he does, then he might clatter somebody. Clever Jose ...

Pep Guardiola is wearing an ostentatious political symbol! You may have noticed that City’s manager has recently been wearing a small yellow ribbon. This is not a plea for the Arsenal job, but a symbol of support for Catalan independence. Obviously Mourinho doesn’t mind at all. Gosh, no. He just wants consistency.

I think that our political ideology and our political beliefs is something that we have the right to have. We are normal citizens like everybody else in our countries and everybody else in our world. I've known Pep for many years, I think I know what Pep feels about his country. To have it in football, I don't know the rules. If the rules allow us to do that, he is a free citizen to do it. But I am not sure if the rules allow any political message on the pitch.

Imagining which political symbols Mourinho might choose to display, were the rules to be relaxed, is left as an exercise to the reader.

We’ll be honest, we’re not sure where he’s going with this one. In the early stages of his career, Mourinho developed a reputation as a master of three-dimensional psychological chess; recently, however, he’s tended more to the crankish. Even if he’s right that Guardiola’s transgressing the rules in some fashion here, it’s hard to determine precisely how it might matter. Presumably he’s working some “City are super-privileged” angle, in the wake of all that Nathan Redmond nonsense. But he just sounds a bit weird.

Obviously, if Guardiola storms out onto the touchline on Sunday, screams “Catalunya, nou estat d'Europa!”, headbutts Mourinho to the ground, and resigns his position to join the independence movement, taking Kevin du Bruyne with him, then we withdraw all of the above, and apologise. Job done. The Master of Mind Games strikes again.

If not? Well, maybe we’re being a little harsh. Everybody deals with big game stress in their own way, and nobody else has to give press conferences about it. And every second spent talking about yellow ribbons is one not spent talking about which club best fulfils the nebulous definition of “bigger” with respect to the other. Hooray for small mercies.