If this wasn’t England — if one of the country’s favorite managers wasn’t returning home — would a coach be able to publicly tap up a player the way José Mourinho has Wayne Rooney? Be it the Chelsea boss calling Rooney turning “likes” into a double entendre or hinting a diminished club role for the Manchester United star would be bad for England (an overt plea to the press’s nationalism), it’s unlikely Mourinho would be allowed to use the press like this in Italy or Spain. His comments would be published and dissected, all of his potential motives laid bare as the press debated his professionalism. No wonder Mourinho has such an affinity for England.
It’s probably a good thing that the returning Chelsea boss is getting a pass. We tend to take everything a coach or player takes far too seriously. So what if Mourinho says Rooney’s a good player? As David Moyes pointed out shortly after, managers are usually supposed to refrain from speaking about other teams’ talent, but when you’re talking about a player of Rooney’s stature, it’s really not a big deal. Nobody’s learning anything new. And the idea England will be hurt if Rooney’s not first choice at Manchester United? Honestly, who cares, especially in the context of the Premier League? Even if he’s not part of Moyes’ selection for big games, Rooney’s not going to lack for playing time.
In that sense, it’d be nice if the press gave everybody the same leash they’re giving Mourinho. We’d certainly get a lot more entertainment out of Arsène Wenger, Paolo Di Canio, Mark Hughes and Sam Allardyce if they were given license to fire off at any time on any thing. That aren’t exemplifies the strange sycophancy the press has developed toward Mourinho. He’s a brilliant quote, great coach, and particularly when he first arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2004, he was a breath of platitude-slicing fresh air. Now, though, his novelty has expired, and while he’s still providing us with more information than any other manager, there’s no reason to continue paying rhetorical tribute at the Special One’s alter.
This is, however, the Mourinho what we’ve missed the last six years. We’ve missed him tapping up players, taking shots at his peers, conjuring obscure metaphors to give new life to the same responses, giving beat reporters something new to hand into the editors hours later. We’ve missed the unabashed confidence, the honest assessments in the tunnel post-match, an a willingness to step into the spotlight, win or lose.
And exchange for all that, to get all that back in the Premier League, the press are willing to let Mourinho play games with Manchester United and Wayne Rooney. They’re willing to clear the stage for a reboot of Special1TV. It may not be how other managers go about their business, but it’s far more entertaining.