Mourinho faces moment of truth against fired-up Foxes

Manchester United take on Leicester City this Saturday at 9pm - LIVE, FREE and in HD on SBS - as Jose Mourinho faces the reality that nobody's invincible, no plan is foolproof and we all must meet our moment of truth.

Northampton Town v Manchester United - EFL Cup Third Round

Jose Mourinho feeling the pressure. Source: Getty Images Europe

"I am not like Mourinho, I don't have to win things to be sure of myself," Claudio Ranieri said in 2008.

Mourinho agreed at the time. 

"I guess he's right with what he said. I am very demanding of myself and I have to win to be sure of things," he said.

"This is why I have won so many trophies in my career. Ranieri on the other hand has the mentality of someone who doesn't need to win.

"He is almost 70 years old. (He was 57 at the time) He has won a Super Cup and another small trophy and he is too old to change his mentality.

"He's old and he hasn't won anything. I studied Italian five hours a day for many months to ensure I could communicate with the players, media and fans. Ranieri had been in England for five years and still struggled to say 'good morning' and 'good afternoon'."

One can only imagine that Ranieri, as a reigning Premier League champion, will take an incredible amount of joy greeting Mourinho with a "good morning" when the two shake hands on Saturday. 

Mourinho Ranieri

Their fortunes have interchanged so dramatically in the past 12 months that it feels like the plot of a ridiculous body-swap movie. 

Mourinho, who memorably described himself as the 'Special One', has now lost 14 of his last 33 matches.  

In that time Ranieri accomplished one of the greatest achievements in the history of sports, winning the Premier League title with Leicester who started last season at 5000-1 outsiders. 

His English might not result in a propensity for verbosity, but it seems "Dilly Ding, Dilly Dong!" was all that was needed last season. 

While Mourinho's command of multiple languages didn't seem all that helpful when he was fired just two days after losing to Ranieri in December last year. 

Leicester City v Chelsea

And if Mourinho does need to win to be sure of himself he must be having a crisis of faith at the moment.

The 3-1 defeat to Watford last Sunday was the third in a row for Mourinho, the first time that has happened in a season since 2002.

Before the Manchester derby, United were talked about as Premier League title favourites by some, now others say they're in crisis mode. The truth lies somewhere in between these hyperboles. 

Wayne Rooney has played as a number 6, a number 8, a 10 and a 9 this season with the end result being one goal, two assists and avalanche of criticism. 

Paul Pogba's $100 million-plus transfer has resulted in a 100 million-plus tweets about him being over-rated. 

Partnered with Marouane Fellaini in central-midfield Pogba's adventurous style has left United dangerously exposed in the middle of the park. 

To get the best out of the former Juventus man, Mourinho must play at least three in midfield, Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera would surely provide more stability and control that would in turn allow Pogba to burst forward and maximise his strengths.

"No one is untouchable, no man is bulletproof. We all must meet our moment of truth," rhymed rapper Guru on the 1998 track Moment of Truth and while it's unlikely Mourinho is playing late 90s hip-hop on his way to training, it's sage advice. 

The song is eerily apposite as I'll explain. 

Rooney, the 14-year-veteran, must surely make way for the far more effective, 18-year-old Marcus Rashford.

"It's best to step back, and observe with couth," Guru, again, providing wisdom. Any one who does so can see Rashford deserves his chance. 

Liverpool ripped apart Leicester just two weeks ago with devastatingly quick pass-and-move combinations that led to a 4-1 win and United must look to do the same. It seems highly unlikely they can pull that off if Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic start up-front together.

While Ibrahimovic has four goals in five, his lack of pace is an understandable concern and must be subsidised through pace in other areas. Anthony Martial, is one obvious option, while a fit Henrikh Mkhitaryan is another.

Mourinho's other big problem is squad harmony.

The final nail in Mourinho's coffin at Chelsea was not the 2-1 loss to Leicester, but the polemic post-match interview where he said "I feel my work is betrayed." 

After the 3-1 loss to Watford on Sunday, Mourinho singled out Luke Shaw, saying the left-back was at fault for Watford's second goal. 

, "many of Shaw’s team-mates were shocked by Mourinho’s public criticism of a player who has suffered with physical and mental frailties."

"The situation that I'm facing is mad amazing. To think such problems can arise from minor confrontations," warned Guru. 

Mourinho, who in the past was so often praised for his man-management, must tread carefully and ensure he doesn't repeat the mistakes he made at Chelsea. If he loses the confidence and respect of the dressing room, he'll be out of a job. 

Or as Guru said, "You play with fire it may hurt you. Or burn you, lessons are blessings you should learn through."

The pressure is huge, the potential ramifications seismic, the Special One is in in danger of becoming the Special Once Upon a Time. 

Or as Guru might summarise, "They say it's lonely at the top in whatever you do. You always gotta watch motherf*****s around you. No one is untouchable, no man is bulletproof. We all must meet our moment of truth."

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5 min read
Published 22 September 2016 at 2:32pm
By Nick Stoll