From special to troglodyte in 3 days

AND then there were two. After threatening to occupy at least half of the Champions League quarterfinal slots, the English Premier League has to make do with Manchester City and Liverpool.

If it is nowhere near a return to the dominance of a decade ago when the EPL boasted three of the semifinalists, they have the best ambassadors for the English game we've seen in a long time: both clubs are vibrant, attacking and a delight to watch.

As for the three failures, they were all very different: Spurs were gallant, Chelsea lost mainly because of Messi while United were feeble to the point of disgrace.

If Mauricio Pochettino and Antonio Conte can hold up their heads, Jose Mourinho should hang his in shame. Just over 72 hours is all it took for him to go from being lauded for a classic rope-a-dope on Liverpool to being called "a troglodyte".

Spanish football daily AS is no fan of the Special One after his rancorous reign at Real Madrid, but we can see where it's coming from with this description. The negativity of his football brands him as yesterday's man and even if he is still capable of conjuring the odd result against a better team, his methods belong to another age. A dark age.

With four shots on target in 180 minutes, it was not anti-football, more like no football at all. There was certainly no creativity but what did he expect from a midfield of Nemanja Matic and Marouane Fellaini?

For Mourinho to pit these two against a Seville boasting the pass master Ever Banega and Steven Nzonzi suggested that the United boss simply wanted to stop the Spanish side creating rather than create anything themselves.

But this was Seville, not Barcelona or Real Madrid. It was at Old Trafford. A big European night and the scores were level. And Mourinho chose to employ tactics from his seven-point plan to counter-attacking teams – a blueprint long since revealed by Spanish writer Diego Torres. For away games.

Three of the points are: Whoever has the ball is more likely to make a mistake; whoever renounces possession reduces the possibility of making a mistake; whoever has the ball has fear. Bad enough away but at the Theatre of Dreams?

It was why the great cavernous stadium was silent (but for the Spanish fans) for much of a game in which Seville, as Mourinho put it, "hid the ball". And why there were boos and whistles when United could not find it. But if that were not bad enough for Devils fans, his press conference defied belief.

Not only did he insult the club by talking up its past failures, he pointedly reminded us of his own successes. Even by his hubristic standards, it was special. And judging by the furious reaction, it could be a turning point.

It was as desperate as United's performance on the field which came as a shock after three wins in a row had put a certain spring back in their step. But now with only the FA Cup to aim for, could it be that he's afraid he's losing his touch?

The stubbornness with which he is sticking to his mantra could have a deeper explanation. There is a whisper in the game that he is still trying to prove his methods are superior to the Pep Guardiola-style passing carousel that is currently in vogue.

The win over Liverpool was a throwback to his heyday at Inter Milan. There he managed to win the Treble in 2010 including the Champions League by beating Chelsea, Barcelona and Bayern with little more than 20 per cent possession against each. Three great teams must have made a lot of mistakes and played with lots of fear!

To be fair, his Inter side fought like tigers and took their chances. It was Mourinho's high-water mark – he was walking on the stuff and got the Real job on the back of it.

Since then, his trajectory has been mainly downward and Guardiola and Klopp have taken over as the stylistic standard bearers – for the attacking game. More and more coaches around the world are tearing up the defensive manuals, getting defenders – and even keepers – to pass the ball out.

Possession may not be nine-tenths of the law but it does not have to mean mistakes and fear. On the contrary, defeats can be brushed off as occasional blips as we have seen from City and Liverpool.

That it should be those two, of all clubs, the near neighbours and the deadly rivals, who are the two EPL teams in the draw only twists the knife for Mourinho. But it appears to be making him even more determined - to prove his methods work.

If that is bad news for United fans, at least European football is spared of this negativity for the rest of the season.

No, last weekend's gloat didn't last long and it could be a while before Devils gloat again. Even the FA Cup wouldn't make up for another season of troglodyte football.