Fergie Time is dead – long live José Time
Even before a ball has been kicked in anger, the subtle mind games that separate Jose Mourinho from the managerial also-rans are very clearly at play.
July 24th, 2013
From the Far East press conferences, to the way the club has carried itself over the pursuit of Wayne Rooney, Chelsea seem to have got their Special back over the last week and a half. It might be considered a sideshow, even ‘enemy of football’ stuff from the humourless vantage-point of UEFA Towers, were it not for the fact that this added dimension to the game clearly works.
The aim has been to rattle the opposition: and I think we all know we’re not talking about the cut-and-shut touring sides that have been assembled as Chelsea’s cannon-fodder opposition for the sponsors in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The Premier League awaits in less than a month, probable main rivals Manchester United in just a few days more, and the outward signs are that Mourinho’s presence has already been felt.
It has occasionally been suggested, since his May departure, that the antics of Sir Alex had been responsible for anything up to 15 extra points for Manchester United each season. That came in terms of mind games, badgering opponents and officials, that eternally inexplicable property ‘Fergie Time’ – and the effect the lot had upon results.
Essentially, what these tactics boiled down to were more than mere psychological warfare: but an ingrained confidence in players, and even supporters, that United had a divine right to win.
But the added swagger goes further than that.
Read David Peace’s superlative, yet admittedly gilded, novel on Brian Clough’s numbered days at Leeds United: The Damned United.
The stories of how he convinced players to join his sides (pretty much all corroborated) – of psychological warfare and personal touches – have a more than contemporary feel. United had it for years. Chelsea last had it between, ooh, about 2004 and 2007.
Is it the case with the modern masters of the mind-game – Ferguson, Mourinho – that they have taken these as part of their wider reading in the pursuit of points? Or is it just that great minds think alike? Probably a bit of both.
It is yet to be seen whether David Moyes can maintain the same Vulcan-like grip over the minds of his cohorts that the ex-boss with the big office upstairs took for granted.
But we know Mourinho can do it, because we’ve seen it before, and we’re seeing it now.
Cups aside, Chelsea have tended to under-achieve in the years since Mourinho left. It has often felt that Manchesters United and City have won the league because of the lack of a credible challenge.
Those 15 ‘Fergie points’ have been vital in deciding the outcome – whether they’ve materialised or not. This season, they may be lost to United.
‘Fergie time’ is finished. ‘Jose time’ is here.