Devils not special any Mour

THERE were many who didn't want him. "Not a United manager" was the cry. "We don't want his type of football," said the purists. "He'll be in trouble with referees and damage our reputation," warned others.

Bobby Charlton was prominent in the resistance movement and Fergie, himself, had reservations.

But Jose Mourinho got the job, practically forcing himself on Manchester United. And as he was the only big-name manager available, the Devils were practically forced to take him. Post Fergie, they had been listing so badly they knew they needed someone special to turn them around.

And so, six games into his second season there's already a feeling the Premier League trophy should be parcelled up and sent to Manchester – the only proviso being that the package includes light blue as well as red ribbons.

The Jose and Pep show is very much on – last year was a mere gestation period – but now Chelsea are showing they are not giving up their crown without a fight after all. And the Blues have the chance to make a real statement when they host City this weekend.

Mourinho groupies make much of his second season syndrome and even his critics acknowledge it is impressive: in every one of his five reigns as manager of a major club – Porto, Chelsea (twice), Inter Milan and Real Madrid – he has landed the league title in his second term.

But for anyone who sees a certain inevitability in United being added to that list, it's worth noting that he has also won it in his first season – at Inter – and bombed disastrously in his third – at Chelsea.

However, an even safer bet with him – and as sure as night follows day – was that he would not play football in 'the United way'. Not for him dashing wingers (Best, Kanchelskis, Giggs), gung-ho attacks or throwing youngsters (Busby Babes, Class of 92) into the fray.

Just as Charlton and Ferguson feared, he is changing the very ethos of United from "attack, attack, attack" to defend with your lives. Defend ugly. Defend by any means. But defend.

Saturday's one-nil win at Southampton might have been from George Graham's old "Arsenal one-nil" handbook – except that the Gunners never seemed quite so desperate.

As Saints dominated the second half, United were ragged and hanging on. A desperation epitomised by Phil Jones, the ugliness of his play making Tony Adams look like Franz Beckenbauer. Mourinho singled Jones out for special praise.

As for youth, Mourinho got lucky with Marcus Rashford. Here was 'a babe' so good even a serial 'wasted on the young' merchant like him had to pick the kid. Otherwise there'd be none in the side.

Look at the likes of Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Andres Pereira and Adnan Januzaj – no attempt to rehabilitate that rare talent – all dispatched on loan.

Fosu-Mensah might have been given a run at either leftback or centreback and look at his treatment of Luke Shaw one of the brightest young stars in the firmament prior to his horror injury.

No kids at all could well have meant the crowd would be on his back. Or so goes the thinking. But would it? Parking the bus was supposed to be a similar no-no.

At St Mary's he had six defenders in the second half and sometimes 10 behind the ball. But criticism is conspicuously absent.

Could it be that after the dire interregnums of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, the craving for success has changed the Man United support? From being self-acclaimed connoisseurs to ravenous win-at-any-cost merchants?

Mourinho did win a couple of base metal trophies last season and it is easy to disparage the second-rate quality of the League Cup and Europa League. But they reaffirmed his status as a serial collector of baubles – regardless of the calibre.

Despite his promise to change – no lie-detector test was taken – it is still the same old Special One. If there were any doubts, the second half at Southampton removed them.

That he will stop at nothing to gain his side a millimetre of ground or waste a millisecond of time was ingloriously apparent with his self-inflicted sending off. A deliberate distraction? You wouldn't put anything past him.

Mourinho has not poked anyone in the eye yet, but his football is not easy on it. And it is shown in even starker contrast at a time when City and Liverpool are playing such scintillating stuff.

United fans have to decide whether success is worth the sacrifice. And if they do become champions, they will be anything but special.


GOOD – Philippe Coutinho: Rather than sulk, the Brazilian seems to be taking the Luis Suarez road to redemption. Recovered from his 'back injury', he's now playing out of his socks and fully justifying Liverpool's decision to cling limpet-like to him.

BAD – Merseyside defence: Jurgen Klopp and Ronald Koeman got out of jail on Saturday. Had Simon Mignolet not morphed from villain to hero in time to save Vardy's pen, the criticism would have been deafening. Ditto at Goodison where the Toffees were facing an unthinkable defeat to Bournemouth until last season's flop Oumar Niasse saved his boss's skin.

UGLY – Rajiv van Parra: 'Blatant dive' is a wholly inadequate description of the Dutchman's impersonation of a dying swan for Huddersfield against Burnley. It was so bad even his manager didn't stand up for him. With retrospective punishment, the book should literally be thrown at him.

STUPID – Serge Aurier: Bought to add a bit of character to a quiet Spurs team, the Frenchman has immediately shown his worst side. His tackle on Andy Carroll that deservedly earned him a second yellow was beyond stupidity – he was miles from goal, there was no danger and he'd just been booked. He's fortunate it didn't cost Spurs the match.