It is not known whether some police care more than others about getting United to the match on time. What we do know, however, is that the club were advised before a wheel on the bus had turned that there would be no escort to Old Trafford since the Champions League fixture with Valencia was not considered a risk to public safety. Yet Mourinho wilfully and deliberately fingered a stretched and underfunded police service for United’s late arrival.
You will recall how he went after the first responders at Reading in the aftermath of Petr Cech’s head injury in October 2006, claiming delays in getting his keeper to the Royal Berkshire hospital. Mourinho’s version, argued Reading, did not tally with their log of events, a position supported by the South Central ambulance service.
Chelsea were defending champions but already political tensions between Mourinho and Roman Abramovich were rising, not least over the selection of new signing Andriy Shevchenko, heavily sponsored by the owner. Though Mourinho saw the season out, he was gone within 11 months of picking a fight with the medical services at the Madejski Stadium.
Chelsea were also champions when he unleashed his inexplicable attack on Dr Carneiro for attending a stricken Eden Hazard during the 2-2 draw with Swansea in August 2015. So soured had the dressing room atmosphere become at Stamford Bridge he was out of the door by Christmas.
Though in his third term at United, just as he was on each occasion at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho has none of the ballast behind him that comes with winning league titles.
The reasons for keeping him in his role are nowhere near as compelling from the footballing standpoint, which begs the question why on earth is the hierarchy at Old Trafford defending the indefensible?
The venerable Paul Scholes, who said next to nothing of value as a player at United, is suddenly the bellwether of Old Trafford in his role as a BT Sport pundit, his pronouncements carrying even greater weight given the reticence of his past.
Scholes thought the insipid reverse at West Ham and subsequent character assassinations of his players sufficient grounds for Mourinho settling his bill at The Lowry.
Mourinho reportedly held his players to account for the West Ham defeat in a meeting at the Lowry that went on for 45 minutes, imploring his team to respond against Valencia and show the supporters that they, the players, care about the club just as much as the fans. The lack of improvement demonstrates how little Mourinho is able to get from this team.
The players can form as many huddles as they like, offer as much public support as they wish, Marouane Fellaini after the Valencia game echoing Nemanja Matic before it in his entreaties to turn the mess around. But the outcome is just the same, flat, featureless football a million miles removed from the product the club sells to the world. “I think everybody is behind the manager. Everyone is going in the same direction to try to improve and to do better. I think we wanted to show that we are together,” Fellaini said of the linked arm congress before kick-off. Just words.
Mourinho’s enigmatic, idiosyncratic musings in media briefings, betraying wildly shifting moods, are not the deliberations of a coach at one with his circumstances. His contrasting selections and altered formations have nil impact on outcomes. The players look like they might be doing community service as penance rather than living the dream at the world’s richest football club.
The mood in the club, the atmosphere, is set by one man. You only have to look across the city or along the M62 in either direction to see the positive impact of the right guru. From Manchester City under Pep Guardiola to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, and yes, to the Bielsaballers of Leeds United, threatening a return to the Premier League for the first time since being relegated 15 seasons ago, life’s all a go-go.
At Old Trafford, United are mired in a self-inflicted malaise, enduring their worst start to a season in 29 years and seemingly incapable or unwilling to take the necessary corrective steps. It’s Newcastle up next at Old Trafford, a team that parks the bus against its own reserves. Were they the visitors at City, Liverpool, Chelsea et al, a draw would be unthinkable, let alone a defeat. But this is United under Mourinho, a club beset by fear and loathing, where even the coppers are getting it in the neck.