José Mourinho had some things to say this morning at his press conference. In an attempt to defend Tuesday’s humiliating Champions League defeat the hands of Sevilla, Mourinho came out swinging. He was critical of Manchester United’s recent record in European competition and less than complimentary (and arguably, correct) in his assessment of the quality of his own players compared to the current best teams in Europe (and also to Manchester City).
He questioned those United fans who were displeased with United’s failure to progress in Europe:
“I say to the fans that the fans are the fans and have the right to their opinions and reactions. But there is something that I used to call football heritage. I don’t know if, I try to translate from my Portuguese, which is almost perfect, to my English, which is far from perfect, football heritage.
”And what a manager inherits is something like the last time Manchester United were in the Champions League final which didn’t happen a lot of times, was in 2011. Since 2011, 2012: Out in the group phase, the group was almost the same group we had this season. Benfica, Basel and Galati from Romania. Out in the group phase.
“In 2013 out at Old Trafford in the last 16, I was on the other bench. In 2014, out in the quarter-finals. In 2015, no European football. In 2016, comes back to European football, out in the group phase, goes to Europa League and on the second knockout out of the Europa League. In 2017, play Europa League, win Europa League with me and goes back to Champions League. In 2018, win the group phase with 15 points out of a possible 18 and loses at home in the last 16.
“So in seven years with four different managers, once not qualify for Europe, twice out in the group phase and the best was the quarter-final, this is football heritage. And if you want to go to the Premier League, the last victory was 12-13 and in the four consecutive seasons United finish seventh, fourth, fifth and sixth. So in the last four years the best was fourth.”
He’s correct. United have been rubbish in Europe before he joined; a result of years of underinvestment under a great manager, followed by poor investment under two rubbish managers. But he misses the point spectacularly.
Most sensible Reds were not expecting to win the Champions League this season, and a Round of 16 exit would not have been totally surprising either, had the team been drawn against one of the tournament favorites. What we did expect, however, is that our very well paid manager and the expensive squad that he has had four transfer windows in which to re-shape would be able to do better than manage 8 minutes of attacking football over two legs against the fifth best team in Spain.
“This is football heritage. Means that when you start the process you are here, you are there or you are there, is heritage. And if the fans that I will always respect, always respect, if the fans and many of them are the ones you speak with, many of them are the ones I speak with and I am very lucky, but the ones who speak with you are very disappointed and the ones I speak with know what is football heritage.
“Those stats are real. I give you a couple more: In the last seven years the worst position of Manchester City in the Premier League was fourth, in the last seven years Manchester City was champions twice and if you want to say three times, they were second twice. That’s heritage.
“Do you know what is also heritage? Is that Otamendi, Kevin de Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva, Sterling, Aguero, they are investments from the past, not from the last two years/ Do you know how many of United players that left the club last season? See where they play, how they play, if they play. That’s football heritage and one day when I leave the next Manchester United manager will find here Lukaku, Matic, of course De Gea from many years ago, they will find players with a different mentality, a different quality, a different background, with a different status, with a different know-how.”
Again, Mourinho is largely correct. Those who would take umbrage with his use of the term “football heritage” are being disingenuous; clearly he is referring to recent quality rather than stature of history. He is also right that Pep Guardiola - despite spending similar amounts - inherited a much better squad at Manchester City. For some fans, this is a much needed reality check.
But none of this detracts from the fact Mourinho, despite being a vast improvement on the never-was and the has-been who preceded him, has underwhelmed and underachieved.
The whole point of hiring Mourinho is that he delivers results. United knew what they were getting when they hired him: the frequent unpleasantness, the occasional borderline unwatchable football in big games, and the likely ugly divorce at some point. But all of that was deemed a risk worth taking given that he was supposed to be a guarantee of success.
If, instead, we get a once great manager who is more interested in defending his own record at the expense of disparaging his players, his employers, and the fans who pay good money to watch what only sometimes passes for football, then what exactly is the point of him?
See the full clip below and judge for yourselves.