The year was 2014. The date, April 27. The moment, Jose Mourinho walking off Anfield thumping his chest with his face giving way to a kaleidoscope of emotions. The commentator boomed on the mike “The master has rained on the apprentice’s parade here.” That was 2083 days ago…
2085 days later and Liverpool will meet Jose Mourinho, yet again. A newer version of the man we all know or so Tottenham fans hope and yet his antics will never change. Naturally, the loan spell with Sky Sports and his foray into punditry helped portray a more charismatic version of the man we’ve all come to know and love as the Special One. It helped erase his shortcomings that became glaringly obvious at Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Chelsea again and Manchester United. It helped portray him as a new man, a changed man, and that opened the floodgates.
But part of Jose Mourinho’s charm, earlier at least, was his arrogance. Even Arsenal fans would begrudgingly admit that the now 56-year-old had something about him. He wasn’t just overcompensating for something but instead was so incredibly, and irritatingly, confident about himself and his teams that it often made him look bad. That would be immediately erased by their performances on the field and he always seemed to hate beautiful football with an unwearied and relentless rage that one often shows when fighting against the system.
Instead, a typical Jose Mourinho performance was nitty, gritty, cagey and so bloody stubborn that it often felt more like the man he loved to portray rather than the one player interviews revealed he actually was off the field. And while that naturally lead to him being hated by everyone except the teams he managed, that spell as a pundit which lead to him sitting next to Gary Neville, Graham Souness, and a few other class acts saw Mourinho change.
He realised that living life on the sidelines and in the media as a grumpy, arrogant and angry man with a perceptual me vs the world attitude would not help a 56-year-old. It’s enduring in a 40-year-old manager just stepping into his first major job and into the spot-light but in a serial winner, it looks like he’s definitely overcompensating for something. Or still raging with all his might against the dying light of his once great and maybe even magnificent managerial career.
It’s why one look at Mourinho’s Tottenham and fans, neutrals, and even Mourinho bhakts are shocked and maybe even a little stunned. Because humble one he maybe, but a Mourinho team is nitty, gritty, cagey and so bloody stubborn, they make you wanna two-foot each player on the field and get sent off in the process which plays into Mourinho’s strategy and helps his cause. That frustrates you even more and then the process repeats like the perfect representation of a day in John Yossarian’s life.
But this Tottenham side lack all that and – unless you’re an Arsenal fan – it makes you feel next to nothing, especially when watching it. Naturally, Spurs faithful and those that pay 30 pounds a matchweek to watch Tottenham play football feel like they want to do anything else but watch their side play this season and under Mourinho, it looks even worse. Even Manchester United at their very worst were stingy and cagey on either side but this Tottenham side have been insipid, pathetic, crummy, godawful, and a billion other adjectives.
They’ve been incredulously bad defensively and even worse going forward with the club clicking on two occasions and even adding the second one is pushing the envelope. And now, up against their toughest challenge in Liverpool, this is possibly the moment that Mourinho has been waiting for. It’s the archetype Jose situation and it is one that Jose thrives in. The spotlight will be shining on him and a bit on Liverpool, the rivalry will feed that humble ego of his and help burn him for centuries to come.
Which sends us back 2083 days or 298 weeks or 68 months into time and to that fateful moment where a Jose Mourinho Chelsea, against all odds, sent Liverpool packing. Naturally, they were helped by Steven Gerrard and the lesser remembered Iago Aspas's career-defining moment – and they've had a couple of screamers – and while this game doesn’t even hold a candle to the importance that one did, it’s could pave the way to something more. Not just for Tottenham but for the man himself and for the neutrals, it could be the moment that the real Jose Mourinho steps out of his shell and gives the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium something to cheer about.
And this would be a Jose Mourinho performance under circumstances that suit the man like a bespoke suit. His team has been chopped apart thanks to injuries to key players including the man who has scored 30% of all goals scored by Tottenham this season. He has no midfield, no left-back, Paulo Gazzaniga in goal and a defense that looks so shaky even super glue wouldn’t keep them in place. Everything that could go against Jose has gone against Jose and he faces this Liverpool side.
This behemoth of a Liverpool team that looks like they cannot be beaten. That looks like they will steam-roll over everyone before coming back and doing it again just for good measure. Say it softly but they look like champions-elect and yet this is what he lives for. This is what Jose Mourinho was born for and hopefully – as Tottenham believed when they signed the deal with the devil – this is the moment that Tottenham becomes a lot more than just bottlers. The moment that will make sacking probably their greatest manager and selling their soul in the process worth everything. And yet this is what he lives for.