Everyone loves to criticise Jose Mourinho. There’s probably no manager since Fergie who truly embodies the values the ABU (Anyone but United) brigade really hate. They hate us. They hate him. It’s a perfect marriage.
The ABUs have probably been pretty happy throughout the season, League Cup aside.
United managed to go 25 games without losing and still be outside the top four. That’s quite a feat.
The early season saw Jose living in the Lowry Hotel away from his family in London. He looked overweight and grey and was often papped in an ill-fitting Adidas tracksuit. He complained about life in his press conferences and generally looked thoroughly disappointed with his lot at the club he’d been so desperate to join.
Great fodder for the ABUs.
Then he started criticising Luke Shaw. The man who cried when first called up for England, and who suffered a horrific broken leg at the start of last season. How could Jose do this? Gareth Southgate quickly showed his displeasure by picking Shaw for England.
They all said Jose was wrong.
Shaw this season has been a shadow of the player we first signed. He’s looked heavy and hasn’t hit a good cross all season. In short, he’s not been good enough to be in the team. And Jose was right – despite what Southgate thinks.
That’s the point. Jose’s usually right. And that’s why they hate him.
He was right to make a centre-half his first signing of the season. He was right to sign Zlatan on a free, and drop him for the Chelsea game. I’d argue he was right to sign Pogba. At 24 he’s got the chance to be the best in the league for years to come.
He was right to hold onto Ashley Young in January and whoever he signs this summer will be right for United to kick on to challenge for the title next season.
Every decision he’s making is about next season. About qualifying for the Champions League and cementing United’s desirability for the best players in the world.
This is where he’s made his biggest call.
By fielding a week team at Arsenal, United effectively gave up on the top four. Energy was conserved for last night’s visit of Celta Vigo. United scraped through and Jose was right.
He wouldn’t have been if former City striker John Guidetti had finished at the death. But these are the fine margins Mourinho lives by. The big calls is what makes him a winner.
You could see by his celebrations at the final whistle what this means to him.
And so he’ll play a weak team at Spurs this weekend, away to Southampton and at home to Palace on the final day. Arguments will start, especially if Palace need something to stay up. The ABUs will call foul play and he’ll be criticised in the press.
As an aside, Ajax have nine days between their last game and the final. United have two.
Jose’s doing what he thinks is right. And if United win he’ll be vindicated with two trophies and Champions League qualification in his first season. The dour draws will be forgotten and he’ll be even more of a hero to the United fans.
If he loses? Best not to think about that scenario just yet.