José Mourinho has a condition that compels the manager to sabotage himself every few years.
The third season curse was the trending topic of discussion for columnists desperate to fill pages in no man’s football land between the World Cup and the start of the season. It’s well-known theory: no matter his prior achievements at the club in question, the Portuguese will have no success after his second year in charge and will instead receive an unceremonious sacking.
It seemed little more than an old pirate’s tale. Now, during League Cup week, its become apparent it’s as real as the ground we stand on. And he’s determined to speak it into reality.
Why else, in 2018, the year of player power, would you so blatantly attack your most expensive asset? Paul Pogba was told he would not be captaining Manchester United any longer; ostensibly a punishment for poor form. Mourinho insisted there was no rift involved, essentially saying José giveth and José can taketh away.
Depending on who you believe, the Frenchman was a quarter-to joining Barcelona last month and the noise around the move floated into what became a sub-standard start to the season. Nudging this guy with a hot, public poker is not going to cure any instability in this trying period. An additional side-effect is the rest of us having to endure a plethora of articles trying to lip-read what the two said in their “heated” exchange.
— Juliet Bawuah (@julietbawuah) September 26, 2018
Pogba is just the latest example. It’s only September but Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have already held the rumour mill hostage for the manner in which they grew frustrated with their manager.
This is behaviour we’ve seen exhibited before. Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Pepe —those are just three of the players believed to have fallen out with Mourinho in his third season at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. Ramos, Mr Real Madrid, is not who you want publicly criticising you at the capital club.
At Chelsea it was Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa — infamously branded the “three rats” by a fan at Stamford Bridge — that were in the headlines for their displeasure. Again, not the sort of star names you want to be isolating. Until that third season everything was just dandy.
It’s ironic that it would be Derby County to knock the Red Devils out of the League Cup at Old Trafford this week. Manager Frank Lampard became who he is today thanks to a good few nudges by a young, suave Mourinho.
As a player he became one of the best in the world and is now taking the next logical step. To get the better of his old mentor in his nightmare week reminds us that he was not always bitter and resentful.
There is no such thing as a third-season curse. Curses remove the element of control from its bearers. That’s not the case here. Should Mourinho get the sack between now and May, which is looking increasingly likely, perhaps we’ll consider a more apt description: the third-season self-sabotage.