Jose Mourinho's deflection tactics at Man Utd this season - where does blaming Aguero for Fellaini red rank?

Charlie Eccleshare
Jose Mourinho - the persecuted one - PA

Jose Mourinho is known for his diversionary techniques when his team is in trouble, and Thursday night's claim that Sergio Aguero got Marouane Fellaini sent off joins a lengthy list from this season...

Have a banana

Mourinho has emphasised on a number of occasions this season how tired his players are due to the high number of matches they've played. 

Deciding that repeating this in press conferences was not sufficient to get his message across, Mourinho handed Marcos Rojo a banana during a laboured Europa League win over FC Rostov last month. 

Mourinho said afterwards: "If you were tired any time in your life, I was tired many times, I know what the body needs. It needs anything. The player asked for a banana. But it's not to laugh at all. It's to respect the players."

Sub-text: Please, someone give me attention about how many matches we are having to play. 

Mourinho holds a banana which was later passed to Marcos Rojo 

Turns on Mkhitaryan

After hauling off Henrikh Mkhitaryan at half-time in September's 2-1 home defeat to Manchester City, Mourinho laid into the Armenian and some of his team-mates in his post-match interview. 

He said: “I didn’t change [the team] after 20 minutes because I don’t want to destroy the players. I didn’t want to make three changes at half-time but if there were a free number of changes and changes during the first half were normal … I would have done it after 20 minutes.

“Some of the boys they felt the dimension of the game and everything around it … the derby, the game, the focus of attention. Some of the guys, they felt it. It is nothing to do with experience and age. The kid [Marcus Rashford, who came on at half-time] looks like he is playing for the Under-18s against Salford City. Every individual reacts to demands of the occasion in different ways.”

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Forwards to blame

This has been a recurring theme this season, and Mourinho went on the attack most recently after the 0-0 draw at home to West Brom earlier this month. 

Mourinho pointed blame at the attacking quartet of Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mkhitaryan for lacking a killer touch, and said: “Today for 90 minutes [Antonio] Valencia was consistent, Ashley Young was consistent, Marcos Rojo was consistent, Eric Bailly was consistent, [Marouane] Fellaini was consistent, [Michael] Carrick was consistent,” he said, of his defence and midfield.

“And the other ones were not consistent, the other ones were a flash of talent, a glimpse of talent, almost a goal and we need to keep opponents and this is deja vu all season.”

Goes full Wenger

A 1-1 draw at Everton in December was a frustrating result for United, and a big talking point was the non red card of Marcos Rojo for an air-bound two-footed lunge on Idrissa Gueye. 

Mourinho ensured the rancour continued afterwards with an Arsene Wenger-esque response when asked about the incident. 

“I didn’t see it,” he said.

He was similarly myopic when asked about Marouane Fellaini’s clumsy barge into the same Everton player that gifted the home side a late equaliser from the penalty spot. “I didn’t see it,” he repeated caustically. 

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Attacks reporter, part one

A 0-0 draw with Hull enraged Mourinho to such an extent that he took it out on the BBC reporter tasked with conducting the post-match interview.

In a conversation that lasted just 88 seconds, Mourinho walked out after being asked what in particular he felt the referee Mike Jones should have pulled Hull’s players up on. “If you don't know, you shouldn't be with a microphone in your hand,” he said.

Attacks reporter, part two

If Mourinho's was at boiling point in the previous berating of a reporter, he was off the scale after the 0-0 draw with West Brom. 

When asked if the two sides had cancelled each other out, Mourinho narrowed his eyes and exploded. “You think the game was equal?” he asked. “I can smile win, lose or draw. I am sorry to say, it is a silly question. When the team crosses the line once in 90 minutes and when the team is in the opposition half trying and trying and trying, you ask if we were equal? David de Gea was sleeping and he did the funny thing at the end, I was laughing with that.”

To be fair, this may have been genuine rage rather than a deflection tactic in response to what was a fairly inflammatory question. 

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The persecuted one

As well as berating a reporter, the 0-0 home draw against Hull also prompted Mourinho to employ one of his favourite diversionary tactics: presenting himself as the victim. 

Mourinho said that he couldn't go into detail about why the referee Jones had angered him so much because “the rules are different for me”. 

“Don’t ask me questions that I cannot answer,” Mourinho said. “You know clearly that I am different. I am different. The rules for me are different. I am different in everything.

“I watch my team play in a hotel, I was forbidden to go to the stadium, my assistant had a six-match stadium ban and he didn’t touch anyone.

“Yesterday one fourth official told a manager [Jurgen Klopp]: 'I enjoy very much your passion'. So do what you want to do. Today I was told, ‘Sit down or I have to send you to the stands’ so everything is different for me. So don’t ask me questions that put me in a difficult situation.”

Refuses to do post-match interview

After being sent to the stands in a heated 0-0 draw at home to Burnley, Mourinho refused to honour his post-match media commitments.

Instead he sent  assistant Rui Faria to talk to reporters, and Mourinho would surely have blushed with pride as Faria gave a sarcasm-laced response to a question about referee Mark Clattenburg's performance. “I think the referee did fantastic work,” he said.  “I won't say more than this.”

The lack of VAR was what did for us

Manchester United's 1-1 draw with Everton was, according to Mourinho, the direct result of the absence of VAR (video assistant referee). 

Complaining about a debatable offside call that went against Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho said:  “With the VAR (video assistant referee), we win this game 2-1 because it’s not an offside. But it’s a difficult one for the linesman. I’m not critical of the linesman. I just say when the VAR comes, it will help everyone, especially the linesmen and referees.”

Blames Aguero for Fellaini red

After Fellaini was sent off for a clear head-butt on Aguero in the Manchester derby, it seemed as though even Mourinho would struggle to dispute the decision. 

Instead he argued that despite the view of the referee and Fellaini himself that it was a red card, Aguero was actually to blame.  

“Marouane says it was a red card because he is Marouane, Martin Atkinson told me in his opinion it was a red card but I saw Aguero in the tunnel - no broken nose, no broken head, his face is as nice as always,” Mourinho said after the match.

“So, I am not so sure. I think if Sergio doesn't go to the floor, for sure it is not a red card.

“I didn't watch but probably I can guess it's a bit of a red card and that it's a bit of a very experienced, smart Argentinian player.”

Blames Luke Shaw part one

After a 3-1 defeat at Watford in September, Mourinho tore into Luke Shaw, who had recently returned from the best part of a year on the sidelines with a broken leg.

A fuming Mourinho said: “For the second goal, Amrabat receives the ball and our left-back [Shaw] is 25 metres from him instead of five metres. But even at 25 metres, you have to jump and go and press, but no, we wait.

“This is a tactical but also a mental attitude. It’s something that doesn’t become perfect in a couple of weeks."

It later emerged that Shaw had been struggling with a groin problem when he had made the mistake Mourinho referred to. 

Jose Mourinho with Luke Shaw

Blames Luke Shaw part two

Turning on Shaw has been a favourite pastime of Mourinho's this season, but after the draw with Everton this month his anger reached unforeseen heights. 

"He [Shaw] has lots of potential but the football brain and the professional brain has to be with the talent," Mourinho told BT Sport. "He has to change his football brain.

"He was doing things in the second half when he was reacting to my voice. If he was on the other side for sure he would not do it

Mourinho continued in the post-match press conference that Shaw's performance from "good" but "it was his body with my brain".

"Because he was in front of me and I was making every decision for him. We need the kids to grow up."

Picks fight with Conte, part one

At the end of a humiliating 4-0 defeat at former club Chelsea, Mourinho whispered angrily into the Italian's ear on the touchline, apparently riled by the way he was asking the home supporters to make more noise.

Having successfully deflected attention from how dreadful his side were in the defeat, Mourinho said with faux coyness after the match: “You know me. I spoke to Conte, not to you. I'm not the kind of guy to come here and share with you things I don't want to share. What is between me and Antonio is for us ... or up to him to talk if he wants to. That is his problem. I have no comment.” 

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Picks fight with Conte, part two

After another loss at Chelsea, this time in the FA Cup last month, Mourinho again ensured his rivalry with Conte was the main talking point. 

United were beaten 1-0, and at the end of the match Mourinho made a point of shaking the hands of his players and staff, meaning he and Conte left the pitch having not shaken hands. 

Again, it was a big post-match talking point. “If I see him here I will shake it,” Mourinho said. “I didn’t because I thought my players deserved my action immediately and I our supporters also deserved our thanks to them, so it was that. I can promise you that if I see him out there I will shake his hand. I have nothing to speak with him at all, but to shake his hand, for sure I will do that.”

'Alternative facts'

Following an EFL Cup defeat at Hull in semi-final, Mourinho employed the 'alternative facts' approach of the Donald Trump administration, by claiming that despite the 2-1 scoreline his team had not in fact lost the game. 

Mourinho said of Hull's first goal “I didn’t see it” and continued: “I think 18 matches unbeaten is amazing. We didn’t lose. It was 1-1. I only saw two goals. I saw Paul Pogba's goal and their (second) goal (by Oumar Niasse) was a fantastic goal, a great action. It was a great cross, and the guy coming in at the far post. 1-1.”

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