There’s been plenty of reaction to Jose Mourinho’s sacking at Manchester United, but two comments coming out today are arguably among the most bizarre.
Former Arsenal man and Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson has labelled the Portuguese ‘the best manager in the world’ and slammed United’s players for not doing enough to work for him.
‘They had the best manager in the world and none of them wanted to run around,’ Merson said.
‘He’s a serial winner – Jose Mourinho is that good, although he has lost his way a bit. Those players should have worked their socks off for him.’
While Mourinho undoubtedly has a trophy cabinet that will be the envy of many in the game, to call him the best manager in the world at this moment in time seems remarkably out of touch with how he’s performed in the last five years.
Things ended badly for the 55-year-old at Real Madrid, and a man famed for always delivering big trophies has now won just one league title since 2012.
Mourinho crashed out at Chelsea in 2015/16, leaving the club, who were reigning champions at the time, just hovering above the relegation zone.
At United, Mourinho finished only sixth in his first season, but put some gloss on things by picking up relatively minor trophies in the form of the League Cup and the Europa League.
The Red Devils moved up to second in the table the following year but finished empty-handed, losing the FA Cup final in a dour display against Chelsea.
This season, the football and results have been even worse, but Merson isn’t the only one to leap to Mourinho’s defence.
Fulham boss Claudio Ranieri hailed his character and said football needs him back.
‘Mou is a winner in capital letters and and I hope he, like Antonio Conte, are soon back in the game,’ Ranieri wrote in Gazzetta dello Sport, as translated by the Daily Mirror.
‘It might seem trite to say to say so but football needs a man like Mourinho, who has the gift of a sharp intelligence, exceptional charisma, splendid irony and enormous experience.
‘I am convinced that Jose still has a lot to give to football. Anyone thinks differently is making a big mistake.’
While it seems hard to believe a top club would go near Mourinho again after his recent demise, these are examples of just how blind the footballing world can be to managers and players losing it at the highest level, even if they were indeed once the best in the world.