Manchester United

The most ironic joke in the early days of January is to suggest that something or someone is ‘so last year!’ Although discarded diaries (do people still buy these as Christmas presents?) and New Year’s resolutions – often made in desperate, drunken desire for things to be better in the future – suggest that 2017 is now further away than it really is. The ‘new start’ or ‘clean sheet’ is still tinged with grubby fingerprints and stark memories of previous days, weeks and months.

Jose Mourinho does not really want to upset the Manchester United footballer icon that was Paul Scholes but, actually, he does have a point in that Scholes and Owen Hargreaves are about as dreadful as football ‘pundits’ can be. Thankfully they now live in a small cupboard called ‘Bad Trip’ – or BT for short. The door to this surreal world is usually locked and so we don’t really know if Hargreaves is still lying on a hospital bed or wired up to a drip but we do know that Scholes occasionally stands on a stool and manages to peep through the keyhole, such is his depth and width of vision.

Rio Ferdinand also crouches in this cupboard every now and again, lamenting the amount of space behind him, which would never have happened ‘in his day.’ Again, Mourinho is correct in his assessment that all ex-United players (did Hargreaves ever actually pass any fitness tests?) would rather still be at the club and playing for the team.

Jose was particularly riled that Paul Pogba was, once again, the subject of criticism for not being a game-changer in matches (OK, more like candles without wicks) that United really should have won. Actually, I think Jose has a point when he muttered something like:

“Not everyone has to be phenomenal like Scholes was; as a player, he was a pheromone, but he has to understand the need for phenylalanine in today’s footballers’ diets.”

“Sometimes Paul Pogba plays very well, sometimes he plays Scrabble – which is not easy in French, because of the lack of authentic accents around him – and sometimes Pussy’s in the Well, which just reminds us all of Phil Jones who once played a whole match for us.”

“It’s not Paul’s fault that he made much more money than Paul.” And there we have it in a nutshell, albeit via a strangely distorted mirror: big spending leading to big jealousy – the real message of Christmas.

Jose continued his thesis – as much as Manchester City were continuing their winning run (that’s so last year!) – by suggesting that the £286 million he has spent in pursuit of happiness is unlikely to end in a schmaltzy ending where everyone gets what they deserve. Unless, of course, you count Juan Mata who had the world at his feet at Chelsea before taking a magic carpet ride to Manchester where he now not only has the world at his feet but a personalised bench to view it from.

Jose is right to remind us that Manchester City have seemingly limitless resources with which to buy football success and even Jurgen Klopp got a very expensive defender for Christmas. The trouble is that even when he makes sensible comments in the present, we are all reminded of the senseless or insensitive words from the past that will sentence him in the future.

Manchester United have a long history which transcends the bookends of yearly calendars. Perhaps Mourinho is destined – as at the start of the Yellow Brick Fulham Road – to be remembered only as a ‘Man who Knew the Value of the Contents of his Wallet’ rather than a ‘Man for all Seasons’ where conscience and coaching provide the lasting midfield memories.