Less than a week ago Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho sat in the post press conference after seeing his team lose 3-0 to Tottenham and prepared to take the heat from the waiting journalists. He ended an awkward few minutes by talking about respect a word he repeated three times. His reason was to tell every one in the room that they should be showing him some after winning 3 titles in England. This wouldn’t have had much of an effect on any journalist that night but respect is what he is earning from the United fans, his most important allies.
It was surprising to see at first the reaction of the fans after the defeat to Tottenham, culminating in Mourinho giving them a friendly gesture as he walked back to the dressing room and picking up a vintage United scarf which he then wrapped around his neck. If that show of sentiment from the United faithful had not given Mourinho warmth then nothing could. But that was something deep down that Mourinho would have respected, how many other fans in the same situation would have been cheering and clapping their manager? It was a sign that they are all in this together with him, and most importantly, it was a sign of support.
There is of course a tale of two sides, and another set of fans on Sunday for United’s game against Burnley at Turf Moor grouped together not to attack Mourinho but vice-chairman Ed Woodward with a plane message over the stadium that said ‘ a specialist in failure’. Woodward has come under fire for not signing the couple of other players that were on Mourinho’s radar this summer. But Mourinho was quick to defend Woodward first by claiming that he did not see the message and then dedicating Sunday’s vital win against Burnley to Woodward. Indeed had United lost this match Woodward could have been tasked with finding Mourinho’s new replacement.
After the 2-0 win over Burnley which was helped by a brace from Romelu Lukaku a mountain of sorrow seemed to be released from Mourinho’s shoulders, something that had plagued him since July when he could not forcibly conjure up a smile on United’s poor pre season in America. But this win meant so much to him that he took the time to go over to United’s away supporters climb over the advertising barriers, thank them profusely and then hand over his jacket to one lucky fan.
Mourinho’s most successful moments with his teams has always involved a togetherness with his players, a them versus us if you like, and the same applies to the fans also. This attitude was at the core of Mourinho’s incredibly successful time at Inter Milan, where they won their first European Cup in 2010 after more than a 40 year wait. It is very questionable whether Mourinho had this special relationship with Real Madrid’s fans who always clamour for more, but if he now has it at United, even when last week they looked down and out, the fans should now see the best of a team managed by Mourinho. If Mourinho feels the love, he gives it out in spades.