Jose Mourinho's red card makes you fear for referees' common senseJose Mourinho's red card makes you fear for referees' common sense
It rarely takes much for Jose Mourinho to imply that he has been victim of some sort of double standard or conspiracy but, on Saturday, he had good reason to feel that his volatile reputation had preceded him.
Mourinho will discover today whether he faces yet another Football Association charge – this time for the most minor on-field encroachment imaginable – but a taste of how any sanction is likely to be received inside Old Trafford was provided on Sunday night by the club’s ambassador and former captain Bryan Robson.
"I thought it was an absolute joke,” said Robson. "Throughout the last year or so, I've seen managers like [Jurgen] Klopp and [Antonio] Conte run about like lunatics, out of their box, down the side of the pitch and not a thing has been made of it. It's called passion for the team.
"But because Mourinho stepped just over the touchline, they sent him to the stands. It'll be a disgrace if he gets fined or banned and made to watch games from the stands over the coming weeks.”
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Fourth official Mike Jones had reported Mourinho to referee Craig Pawson for encroaching onto the pitch in the final seconds of Saturday’s 1-0 win as United prepared to defend one final Southampton attack from a corner. The infringement was so minimal that Mourinho initially had no idea what he had done, even if subsequent replays provided some explanation for Mourinho’s dismissal.
The FA will await details of Pawson’s report before deciding whether to take any action again but have stressed that not every touchline sending off results in a ban or punishment.
It is understood that Mourinho also went into the referees’ room after the game with a member of United’s staff to seek clarification for his dismissal and Pawson’s report is also likely to reference any discussion and whether he had been invited. Mourinho did receive a touchline ban last season after being sent off against Burnley but it would be a surprise if this latest misdemeanour was taken as seriously.
The FA must also decide whether to take any action over further renditions at St Mary’s on Saturday of a chant that includes racial stereotyping in respect of Romelu Lukaku. The striker scored the winning goal on Saturday to take his tally already this season to 12 but some of the travelling fans were defiant – “we’re Man United we’ll sing what we want” – amid the club’s request to stop. United are now cooperating with Southampton over the CCTV footage in an attempt to identify those supporters.
The club also issued another strongly worded statement after the match to underline their “zero tolerance” stance and accused fans of disrespecting Lukaku’s own “wishes not to sing the song”. Kick It Out, football's equality and inclusion organisation, have also written to United. The local police have not received any complaints and the FA is now likely to monitor how United deal with those fans before seriously considering any intervention.
It all rather overshadowed a 1-0 win that ended with United playing five defenders and two deep lying central midfielders to ensure they withstood Southampton’s second-half pressure. Mourinho was delighted by what he called the “pragmatism” of his team in still achieving a result that maintains their unbeaten start and position level on points with Manchester City.
“It was a game where we had to defend,” said Ashley Young. “It wasn’t a United performance but we came down here to get the three points and that’s exactly what we did.”
Southampton, who were being watched for the first time by their new majority owner Gao Jisheng, completed the match with more than 60 per cent possession and five more shots but without a goal for the seventh time in their last eight home games.
“We dominated a lot - they made a few chances but, playing against a top team, the small details, makes a big difference,” said centre-back Maya Yoshida.
“It’s really difficult to accept but that is why they are top of the table. We have to be more clinical for sure. I think Mourinho was really realistic. He understood the situation. It wasn’t great, that’s why they became more defensive, but then they won.”