It felt like an outpouring of appreciation. It felt like a recognition for all he was given. It felt like a final goodbye.
Jose Mourinho spent a significant amount of time applauding the home Manchester United fans following the 3-0 defeat to Tottenham at Old Trafford, the worst home loss of his managerial career.
The 55-year-old was not visibly grumpy, he was not angry, and he was not incendiary. Instead, he simply walked over to one of the supporter sections near the corner flag (and, coincidentally or not, near the cameras) and applauded for a significant amount of time. He even picked up a Manchester United scarf thrown by one of the fans. Eventually, he nods in appreciation and even a bit of understanding.
It’s difficult to speculate what will happen in the next few days or even weeks, but it certainly had a feeling of finality about it. Mourinho appeared quite emotional during the entire episode, soaking in the moment and clearly hoping to encapsulate the scene in his memory.
After the match, Mourinho praised not only the fans for applauding the team, but also the players for giving a great effort, not something heard often from the Portuguese manager who is frequently harsh on his own players.
“From a strategic point of view, we didn’t lose,” Mourinho said of the performance. “From a tactical point of view, we didn’t lose. But we lost the game.”
“I just think that if anyone that watched this game…one thing they know for sure, the team is united. A team doesn’t fight the way they fought…the boys don’t give everything like they gave if the team is not united.”
“I think one thing is clear, and that is that the team is united,” Mourinho finished with. “United with the manager?” asked the interviewer. “There is no union without the manager,” Mourinho replied. One last plea to the board?
At the end of it all, Mourinho couldn’t stay positive forever. He became angry in his postmatch press conference, incensed that he wasn’t receiving enough respect from the journalists in attendance. He waved three fingers in the face of the attendees, saying “Do you know what the score was? Three-nil. Do you know what this also means? Three Premierships. I won more Premierships alone than the other 19 managers together. Three for me, and two for them.” Then he got up out of his chair and repeated, “Respect. Respect” as he walked out of the room.