Jose Mourinho often cited a ‘conspiracy’ against his team during his second spell at Chelsea and many, myself included, saw this as Mourinho ‘losing his head’, running out of excuses for the worst title defence in Premier League history. However, witnessing the man patrolling the Old Trafford dugout week in week out highlights how Mourinho may just have a point. What exactly does Mourinho mean by a conspiracy? Is this in reference to the Football Association, referees or the media? Events would suggest weight can be found behind all three.
The Football Association
Compared to other managers, Jose Mourinho tends to find himself treated with a more an iron fist than by the FA. Mourinho found himself landed with a £50,000 fine for comments made about the suitability of Anthony Taylor to referee his side’s clash with Liverpool at Anfield in October. The United boss stated that, in relation to Taylor being from the Manchester area, appointing him to the game placed added ‘pressure’ on the referee – seemingly a reasonable comment. Appointing Anthony Taylor to that game did indeed place unnecessary pressure on the official, with much of the build up to that particular game centring around the referee more than usual.
Conversely, after Liverpool’s 3-2 defeat to Southampton earlier in the year, Jurgen Klopp stated that he felt the need to substitute Dejan Lovren for Martin Skrtel as the referee on the day “was not completely any more free of the emotion in the stadium”. Liverpool’s loss was in part due to a mistake made by Martin Skrtel. Klopp here, like Mourinho, questions the referee’s ability to handle a pressured situation, however worse. The Liverpool manager not only cited pressure as an issue, as Mourinho did, but also implied that the official was influenced by this pressure and that he cost Liverpool the game to a degree. Is this not a more scathing attack on the integrity of the match official than the Manchester United manager? Yet the German faced no further action. If nothing else, it seems the FA are far more willing to impose sanctions on Jose Mourinho than other managers.
Jose claims that refereeing decisions tend to go against his team and himself. If not a conspiracy against him, referees certainly appear to hold ill feeling against the former Porto boss. In light of United’s November draw with Burnley, Graham Poll revealed that Mark Clattenburg holds grudges and “gives nothing” to a side once their fans turn on him and or their players/management agitates him. This would seem to back up Mourinho’s claims to an extent, Jose reacted angrily to Clattenburg’s failure to award United a penalty before going on to tell the referee what he felt of the decision at half time, Jose was sent off and Ander Herrera was later dismissed inexplicably for slipping over. Mourinho’s team were punished because their boss was Jose Mourinho and he had irked the referee – if Poll’s claims are to be believed.
This attitude of Clattenburg’s would also seem to apply to other referees with regard to Jose Mourinho, notably Jon Moss. Just over a year after Mourinho upset Moss by calling him weak at Upton Park, the ref appeared determined to show the 53-year-old just how ‘strong’ he was as he sent Mourinho off for kicking a water bottle in United’s 1-1 draw with West Ham. It is questionable at best whether or not other managers would have received anything more than a talking to, but because of the history between the pair, Mourinho was given his marching orders. Despite it being arguable that the Portuguese brought this upon himself by attacking the official in the first place, this is still an example of Mourinho being treated differently and therefore backs up his point.
Finally, there is the media aspect of this supposed ‘conspiracy’ against Mourinho’s side. To evaluate this, only the difference in treatment of Jose and Pep need be observed. As Jose’s United suffered their third defeat on the bounce, stories began to emerge that ‘Jose is finished’, that he ‘is a dinosaur, outdated by Klopp and Guardiola’ or pieces as in the Daily Star, pulling up quotes from Thibaut Courtois and using them to paint Mourinho as a draconian figure. Contrast this to media coverage following City’s 1-0 defeat as Old Trafford, which took the Citizens’ winless streak to six games. The harshest piece to be found on Guardiola was a Daily Mail article, in which it is acknowledged that the winless streak was the longest of his career however went on to make comments such as “few at the Etihad are in panic stations” before going on to cite all of Guardiola’s prior achievements at other clubs.
After a winless streak half of his Spanish counterpart, why was Jose ‘finished’ and a ‘dinosaur’ while Guardiola continued to be portrayed as a world class, prestigious manager who was ‘building a team’ rather than making mistakes. Once again, it is certainly understandable why Mourinho feels he is targeted; at best, he is harshly treated compared to his colleagues in Premier League management.
On balance, although the term ‘conspiracy’ may come across strong, it is clear to see that in all of the FA, referees and the media, Jose Mourinho is treated significantly more harshly than his competitors. Maybe Mourinho has got a point after all.