No man is an island, Jose

MICKEY MOUSE Cup? Not this season. Seldom, in recent times, can the much-maligned FA Cup have meant more with three of the Big Six in the semifinals and debate raging about who needs to win it most.

Ironically, relegation-threatened Southampton are the club to whom it may mean the least as they'd probably swap it for remaining on the Premier League gravy train.

Chelsea, too, have another priority as they cling to slim hopes of achieving a Champions League spot for next season. But for the Blues, the Cup affords another chance to put gloss on an otherwise disappointing campaign.

For United and Spurs, though, it will mean an awful lot – not least to their managers: one an unashamed trophy hunter, the other yet to break his duck. It's an intriguing tie with United slight underdogs at Wembley, which is Spurs' temporary home where all talk of a curse has been well and truly banished.

But you wouldn't put it past Jose Mourinho to nick another – a manager who mentions the Community Shield and Spanish and Portuguese Super Cups among his baubles will want it badly: perhaps more than his players.

"No man is an island," wrote John Donne, Dean of St Paul's in 1624. It has taken almost four centuries for anyone to dispute those fine words but after the win over Brighton, the Dean of Old Trafford just has.

Mourinho's description of Nemanja Matic as "an island of personality and desire and control, surrounded by a lack of personality, class and desire" certainly strikes a chord, coming as it did, just a day after his epic 12-minute rant.

The chances of it having the desired effect on United's slackers and under-achievers may be slightly higher than it being quoted in 400 years' time, but it is an instant Mourinho classic.

Students of the genre will know that while his sound bites do not belong in such exalted company, his ego is a match for the most inflated of modern times. Last week when The Guardian asked readers to attribute a selection of quotes to either the Special One or Trump, it proved devilishly difficult to decide.

Not for the first time in his career, he is overshadowing his players and even his own not insignificant tactical triumph over Liverpool.

That's almost forgotten now after a desperate defeat and a clutch of rants about how good he is and how bad his club and players are.

He is cunningly killing two birds with one stone – giving the players a kick up the backside and the board a nudge that he needs new ones.

As any armchair Freud will tell you, he is positioning himself so he can blame either board or players or both when he quits. Whatever, it won't be his fault.

Mourinho watchers will know that such behaviour tends to occur during the third phase of his tenure and that the growth rings are getting closer.

This time the "second season success" just didn't happen.

Since 2011, in what might be called the post-Inter period, he has not reached the Champions League final despite being at three of the game's richest clubs – Real, Madrid, Chelsea and United. However you look at it, his has been a career of two halves.

He has landed two league titles but also been sacked before Christmas.

And Real won the Champions League three times out of four with mostly his players.

Antonio Conte won the league with Chelsea players who were in 16th place when Mourinho was shown the door.

But where he overstepped the mark was questioning United's heritage and the unmentioned insult to Fergie.

The bare-faced cheek to say that he "sat in this chair" as first Porto and then Real Madrid knocked them out of Europe beggared belief.

Alex Ferguson was the manager on both occasions and even though relative under-achievement in Europe is one of his few regrets, hearing that from the current manager would have sent the hairdryer into overdrive. In both games, Mourinho benefitted from scandalous refereeing decisions.

As if that were not outrageous enough, to belittle the heritage of the club that rose from the ashes of Munich to win the European Cup 10 years later is a sacrilege that many at United will find impossible to forgive. One day it could be considered the opening line in a lengthy suicide note.

With Mourinho in such a pesky mood on and off the field, we cannot be sure the semifinal will be as mouthwatering as it looks.

United are bound to find themselves more isolated than usual and Spurs, without an FA Cup win since 1991, would be popular winners of the trophy.

Unlike the Portuguese, their manager Mauricio Pochettino comes across as likeable, dignified and doing an excellent job although he has also yet to win a trophy of any kind.

It is something he needs to do to start a Spurs dynasty and show that he is the coming man and not just a nearly man. He could even be a future United manager as Fergie rates him highly.

For Conte, who was overwhelming favourite to win in last year's final, it will be a shot at partial redemption and a reminder that he can still win silverware with one hand tied behind his back.

But it is Mourinho who will inevitably steal the headlines whatever happens. It is to be hoped that he has read the whole of John Donne's noble text for it ends: "… for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee".


GOOD – Mo Salah

The superlatives are nearly exhausted, but the goals keep coming. He's still not Messi but Liverpool's Egyptian flyer is running Suarez close. When the players say they feel the same confidence boost as when the Uruguayan was in the side – that they can beat anybody – says it all.

BAD – Arsene Wenger

The reaction – or lack of it – of Wenger was worse than Danny Welbeck's dive. This is the man who was so angry about being on the wrong end of debatable decisions – including diving – that he demanded to see the FA alleging a conspiracy against his team. For him to remain silent over this was the absolute definition of hypocrisy.

UGLY – Danny Welbeck

Wenger had already said English players were becoming the masters of diving and Arsenal's England striker certainly conned the ref against AC Milan. But it was such an amateurish effort – he seemed to go down in instalments – we wonder how. Dele Alli should give him lessons.


Take your pick from the above. FIFA for foisting VAR on the World Cup when experiments show it is nowhere near ready. In an international tournament with refs using it for the first time, it is a blueprint for chaos. Or UEFA for charging Besiktas with "insufficient organisation" after a cat ran on the field during their Champions League game with Bayern.