What is riling Jose Mourinho? Manchester United’s manager has been acting like the thin-skinned one, squabbling with fans and media despite only one defeat in 16 games this season.
The answer is a perceived lack of respect. Like any high achiever, he believes his status and medals should count for something.
Yet with 25 trophies to his name he has seen the potless Mauricio Pochettino receive greater credit for a single victory against Real Madrid than he has got all season.
Mourinho returns to former club Chelsea today still smarting over the way United’s 0-0 draw at Liverpool and 1-0 win against Spurs have been portrayed.
But if anyone expects him to be chastened into releasing the handbrake at Stamford Bridge, they will be disappointed.
The 54-year-old regards himself as a true believer in sport which means placing a higher value on fighting for results than producing artificial entertainment.
‘Before I was a manager, I was a football-lover. Real competition is what is spectacular for me,’ he says. ‘I can watch matches all day as long as the spectacle is competition. I prefer to watch an unknown league where it’s difficult to predict the winner than a game where you know what’s going to happen.
‘For me, the priority is competition. What is magic for you? What is phenomenal for you?’
Mourinho loved the way his players handled Tottenham last Saturday and was upset that some United fans booed his replacement of Marcus Rashford rather than appreciate the master class.
‘The way Tottenham played against Real Madrid, I recently saw some team play exactly that way and it was seen as negative,’ he complains, referring to his team’s victory against Spurs.
‘I saw it, not on TV but on the touchline. Defending, pressing, controlling the penetration, five at the back, projecting the full-backs, getting the ball forward in quick transitions, attacking the last defensive line.’
Perhaps Pep Guardiola’s start to the season at Manchester City has left Mourinho feeling the need to defend himself. Perhaps the case into his tax affairs in Spain has sapped his energy levels.
Regardless, Mourinho feels his past record means he is entitled to more respect.
‘I think that probably 25 trophies is the line that people make about a successful manager,’ he says.
‘For some managers, they still need to win one more trophy to reach that 25 level. Some need four, some need 12, others need 25 trophies to reach that level.’
The dig at United fans in his programme notes ahead of the midweek game against Benfica caused plenty of discussion among those supporters.
Andy Mitten, editor of the United We Stand fanzine, wrote: ‘Whether you agree with him or not his quotes on fans are certainly more interesting than the standard cliched platitudes.’
Mourinho is midway through a three-year contract at United and recently flirted with Paris St Germain with a new deal at Old Trafford not forthcoming so far.
But he insists his recent mood is not an indication he is unhappy.
‘No, just a difficult week. Big matches, injuries, tired — just normal,’ he said with a wan smile.
‘I love my players. You try to create a history. I’ve seen it that I am not speaking with Ander Herrera any more. He is the kind of player I have to push him away because he wants to speak with me all the time!’
United’s one defeat this season was at Huddersfield and Mourinho reacted by accusing his players of having the wrong attitude.
Midfielder Juan Mata, who also played for Mourinho at Chelsea, has seen it all before.
‘He [Mourinho] hates to lose so every time his team lose he gets angry,’ revealed the Spaniard.
It shows Mourinho continues to love the competition above all else. And why you still would not bet against him winning more trophies than rivals Guardiola, Pochettino or Antonio Conte this season.