The Sour One, Not The Special One! Stan Speaks…

Is it me or is Jose Mourinho starting to fray around the edges a little?

Season one of his return to Stamford Bridge was ‘it’s all about next season’. Season two was ‘Now I’m happy I have the squad I want, lets win this’. So what is season 3?

Looks to me like Jose is a mildly (and growing) unhappy man. Whisper it quietly, but could this end messily for Chelsea with the Special One possibly saying “I’m off”, again.

Seems ridiculous to think that but indulge me a moment. The Carneiro situation would have left one or two seniors in the dressing room questioning him, maybe for the first time.

In the press conferences he looks angry, constantly prickly and a man that didn’t get his way in the transfer window.

Add to that a resounding defeat against the side most likely to challenge over 38 games, with his captain leader and legend’s performance displeasing him so much that he got the hook, and all of a sudden the calm waters and canter of last season look a long way away.

It’s early days of course, but here’s a man quite simply used to stamping his feet, getting his way or he’s off and I wouldnt be at all surprised to to see this brooding Jose for the remainder of the season unless Roman opens the golden cheque book and allows his manager yet again (£1 billion spent as a manager) to buy his way to being special.

Money Makes You Weak

Soccer - Friendly - Toronto FC v Manchester City - BMO Field

There seems to be something odd in the DNA of the new oil rich super clubs. Bar one back to back retention of the title in 04-05 and 05/06 in Jose Mourinho’s first spell at Chelsea, both the Blues and Man City – since the Sheikh arrived – have defended titles poorly in my opinion, making the job Fergie did at Manchester United for so long even more incredible.

Four times Sir Alex retained the title at Old Trafford including three-on-the-spin twice. In football circles, great managers and great sides get the ultimate respect, not for winning one, but by being able to say “We climbed that mountain, lets do it again” and achieving that.

That’s why Pellegrini and Mourinho will never touch Fergie as a manager, whatever resources they get, however long they are in charge. A great manager, like Bob Paisley, Bill Shankly or a Jock Stein would throw the winners’ medals on the dressing room floor after the last match and say “This lot means nothing now until you’ve proven you can do it again”, and more often than not they did.

Chelsea’s title defence has looked laboured and disinterested, and City’s last season was one of the poorest defences I’ve seen at the top level in the Premier League era. The reason is simple: do modern squads, lured by 200k a week rather than the desire to build a legacy, have the desire to dominate over multiple seasons? The answer for me is no, and that’s why Fergie stands alone in the Premier League.

Sunderland Sunk

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Sunderland v Norwich - Stadium of Light

7 goals conceded in just 2 games – it ain’t looking good.

In pre-season, confidence abounds, you forget whatever hapened last time around, prepare better, add some new blood unburdened by the worries of the season before, and endeavour to place you and your team better than the last season.

Sunderland, in two full weeks, have destroyed every bit of good will from their loyal supporter base and created uncertainty around a manager who helped them escape last time. Believe me, that Sunderland dressing room will not be a fun place to be right now.

At the start of the season, the mantra around day one is, “Don’t lose, give yourself something to latch onto, some momentum”, so even if you lose narrowly the gaffer can show the DVD to the players and say, “There’s plenty to build on”.

So what can Dick Advocaat do? Nothing is the answer, and like Martin O’Neil, Gus Poyet, Steve Bruce and Paolo Di Canio before him, there seems to be something fundamentaly wrong at Sunderland Football Club. I have to say the only constant in that time seems to be one person: the owner Ellis Short.

Directors of football, lots of managerial turnover, losing the one man who brought sense and stability and a football mind – Niall Quinn – all have conspired to make Sunderland a mess, and it needs to change, and change quickly or the Mackams will go down. It’s that simple.

Louis Van Gaal, the pragmatist

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Aston Villa v Manchester United - Villa Park

I’m in China playing football at the minute while writing this column, and the chat around the dinner table this week is a brilliant insight into the beautiful game I love.

Fabio Cannavaro, Gus Poyet, Robbie Fowler, Dwight Yorke, Gaizka Mendieta and Marcel Desailly all talking about World Cup wins, winning Ballon d’Ors, Champions Leagues: it’s special to hear these legends discuss various things. At some stage the conversation turned to the Premier League.

A couple of the guys on the trip have played under Louis Van Gaal, many against his sides and several know him personally, which lead me, as a sports broadcaster to ask as many questions as I could.

1. What’s he like? Answer: aloof, hard, disciplined, a winner. Stubborn. Ruthless.

2. What’s his style? Win, doesnt need to be pretty, even with great individual players; just win. Or leave his club.

3. Is he liked at United? Lots of the seniors there find him like the Bayern, Ajax and Dutch guys before them: not a likeable man at all, and a few quite dislike him, but when he talks, they listen.

4. Will he be a success at Old Trafford? A resounding “yes” from the room, but an overall agreement that it may not be the swashbuckling United way of yesteryear. The fans may have to accept pragmatism to win trophies rather than “attack attack attack”.

Two 1-0 wins, both a little fortuitous, not much of the expansive style of the fergie era, but winning games: I think they may be right.