x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

The real Jose Mourinho is finally standing up

Forget the Special One or the Happy One – Jose Mourinho is turning into the Angry One after picking fights with Juan Mata and Ruud Gullit. Andre Villas-Boas could be next.

Jose Mourinho is returning to his nastiest best when talking about rival managers and his own players, this time Juan Mata, bottom right. Eddie Keogh / Reuters
Jose Mourinho is returning to his nastiest best when talking about rival managers and his own players, this time Juan Mata, bottom right. Eddie Keogh / Reuters

A more familiar Jose Mourinho is emerging as the Premier League season enters autumn.

He styled himself the Happy One when he confirmed his return to Chelsea for a second stint at the club he led to two titles as the Special One. Sometimes, he seems happiest when in one-to-one combat.

Spats were part of his make-up then, and evidently, they still are.

His marginalising of Juan Mata, Chelsea’s top player when Roberto Di Matteo and Rafael Benitez were in charge, will remind many of Mourinho’s treatment, while head coach at Real Madrid, of Iker Casillas, the Spain and Madrid captain.

There is a familiar pattern: a popular player is left out, questions are asked and there is thinly veiled criticism of the player by Mourinho.

Mata was left out of the match-day squad against Fulham on Saturday, but will return to the XI in a noticeably weakened team on Tuesday night in the League Cup against Swindon Town.

The implication in Mourinho’s explanation for Mata’s demotion is that under Benitez and Di Matteo, Mata may have thrived as the creative hub of a Chelsea able to win Cups, but that Mourinho is seeking a more refined team than they did.

He champions Oscar, the gifted Brazilian, as he criticises Mata.

On Saturday, the Mata issue surfaced in Mourinho’s remarks after a 2-0 win in the West London derby.

Ruud Gullit, a former Chelsea manager who was analysing the match on television, suggested something “personal” was at the source of the Mourinho-Mata discord. Mourinho snapped at Gullit: “Ruud Gullit was also a manager,” said Mourinho, and immediately drew attention to Gullit’s mixed record as a coach, most recently with Terek Grozny, LA Galaxy and Feyenoord.

“I think he shouldn’t be a very proud manager for what he did in the last three years.”

Deriding other coaches, especially predecessors or successors, is a Mourinho trait.

Ask Claudio Ranieri, who Mourinho followed when he joined Chelsea for the first time in 2004. He sneered at Ranieri’s record then, and continued to snipe at the Italian when they coincided in Serie A.

At Madrid, Mourinho belittled Manuel Pellegrini, whose sacking opened the door for the appointment at the Bernabeu of the provocative Portuguese. Pellegrini, said Mourinho, was unlike the Special One in that he followed his stint at Madrid by going to a small club like Malaga.

Pellegrini, whose Manchester City issued an ominous statement of their title-chasing intentions on Sunday, has a thick enough skin to ignore such barbs. So does Ranieri, who is something of a Happy One right now, with his Monaco perched on top of France’s Ligue 1.

Another man with whom Mourinho has duelled through the media in recent years also is able to look at Chelsea without envy.

That is Andre Villas-Boas, who was determinedly cold-shouldered by his former mentor after he chose to leave Mourinho’s coaching staff and pursue his own career as coach. Villas-Boas’s Tottenham Hotspur are joint top of the Premier League, two points clear of Mourinho’s team.

The Spurs manager will already be anticipating some darts to be aimed at him during Mourinho’s news briefings in the coming days, ahead of Saturday’s meeting between the London clubs.