Jose Mourinho‘s use of the word “clowns” at half time against Manchester City last weekend echoed the speech he gave to his Chelsea players ahead of spoiling Liverpool’s chances of winning the Premier League in 2014.
The Portuguese produced one of his finest managerial displays against a Liverpool side that were three games away from winning their Premier League title in 24 years, organising his defence superbly and churning out a 2-0 win that will forever be remembered as the day that Brendan Rodgers’ side – and Steven Gerrard specifically – slipped up.
Speaking after that momentous victory, Mourinho revealed how he motivated his players by warning them against playing the ‘clown’ role at Liverpool’s circus.
“I felt during part of last season that the country wanted Liverpool to be champion,” he said. “The media, the press: a lot was to put on Liverpool there. Nobody was saying they were in a privileged situation because they didn’t play Champions League.”
“Nobody was speaking about a lot, a lot of decisions that helped them win important and crucial points. And I felt that day was a day that was ready for their celebration.”
“I used the word with my players. I said, ‘We are going to be the clowns, they want us to be the clowns in the circus. The circus is here. Liverpool are to be champions.'”
Mourinho played on the neurosis of the occasion – the fact that Liverpool had never been this close to Premier League glory before – to cause a kind of internal implosion at Anfield on that fateful day. Against City, on the other hand, he played on the fear of his players at what would have been the worst party in football history, reminding them of how posterity will judge them if they folded.
The common theme, however, is how the 55-year-old instilled in his players an outright refusal to play the secondary role in both games, to not just go gently into the night whilst the opponent relishes in its glory. That, right there, is the Mourinho spirit personified, depriving United’s two biggest rivals of their own grand party.