While I was engrossed in the excitement of the All-Ireland football final, the news came through that Man United had slumped to their third consecutive loss. The soccer giants lost 3-1 to Watford at Vicarage Road today, a chastening defeat that prompted the usual hysteria and over-reaction among many fans and pundits. Disappointment at your team losing is perfectly understandable of course and distress at defeat is hardly a new phenomenon. A bizarre trend is emerging, though. We are living in a curious age where instant reaction is demanded in these moments and our responses are becoming ludicrously disproportionate, devoid of any semblance of balance or common sense.
The honeymoon is over. While fans were somewhat divided over the vexed appointment of Jose Mourinho, it’s fair to say the overwhelming majority were prepared to give the controversial Portuguese manager a chance. And it all started so promisingly. A decent preseason, one that heralded a smattering of marquee signatures, was followed by a good start to the league. Typical of the new manager, the performances were functional rather than overly spectacular, but the results were coming and there seemed to be intent to play attacking football. I saw the first home game against Southampton and I must say I was very impressed with the United performance. The hosts were organised and efficient, and new signing Paul Pogba looked every inch the superstar in midfield. Certainly his inflated price tag didn’t look excessive that evening.
Granted, things haven’t gone too well since. Last week’s deflating loss in the Manchester derby was followed up by Europa League disappointment in Rotterdam. Today’s reverse against Watford has therefore topped off a rather horrendous week from a United viewpoint. And I get the fact that these losses aren’t mere statistics. There’s a context to all of this. Admittedly, I haven’t seen all the matches, but I understand that the performances as much as the results have caused concern. The City performance, in particular, was a profound reality check. The final score hardly did justice to the extent of City’s pervasive dominance. I tuned out before the end, but the Premier League favourites were mesmerising in the Manchester derby. City were fantastic, exhibiting a blistering pace that was combined with pin-point accuracy. Make no mistake, this was as emphatic a 2-1 victory as you’ll ever see. If City had taken their chances in the first half, it could have been really embarrassing for Mourinho. United have seen it all before with a Pep Guardiola team, of course. That bloody carousel! Today’s defeat punctured the Mourinho bubble further. A 3-1 loss to Watford. A reverse of this nature was always going to spell the end of the honeymoon.
Disappointment I understand. But I don’t get the hysteria. A cursory look at some of the post-game reaction unearthed the usual internet hyperbole and overreaction. Football commentary has become so tabloid. Everything’s a crisis. I’ve seen several comments on Twitter today, that openly question Mourinho’s tenure. United’s boss is getting slated by elements on the internet and social media. Unfavourable comparisons are even being made with immediate predecessors Louis Van Gaal and the unfortunate David Moyes. Moyes, in particular, proved fatally vulnerable to similar levels of impatience when he was shown the door with indecent haste ten months into a six-year contract. Mourinho will certainly be given more time, but he must find such commentary extremely perplexing. Let’s not lose our heads here. We’re only five games into the league season. There’s plenty of football to be played.
I’m not Mourinho’s biggest fan, but his record tells you there’s absolutely no need to panic. The man’s a perpetual winner, who invariably gets the job done in the end. What we’re seeing here isn’t based on calm and rational analysis. It’s hysteria and an extreme form of hysteria at that. We live in a world that demands instant success. Everything has to be expeditious and immediate. These days, we don’t wait to make our judgements. We offer them instantaneously and without mercy. Patience is viewed almost as an old-fashioned concept. In the modern era, football supporters demand immediate success and expect their teams to win every game. Expectations are less realistic than ever. Fans baulk at the idea of giving a manager time to make his mark.
If a match is lost, then the manager is in trouble. Lose a couple of games and it’s magnified into a full-blown crisis. Crisis? The word has lost all meaning in the modern vernacular. Wars and famines are crises. Losing a few football matches constitutes a blip, a transient setback from which great managers like Mourinho inevitably recover. These modern trends have eroded our sanity and sense. We’ve lost the power of perspective. Social media hasn’t helped in this regard. The demand for instant judgement and rapid reaction is insatiable. It’s a relentless, self-serving monster. But we’re all in trouble when fans are getting perturbed by the loss of a couple of early season games. Sport is an emotive business and it’s easy to get caught up in the madness. Anyone getting too hot and bothered really need to take a step back, though. Calm down dears, it’s only September!
P.S. For those who missed it, Dublin and Mayo served up a cracker at Croke Park today. The game ended as a draw, but the result was in doubt until virtually the last kick of the contest. Whenever the Dubs threatened to pull away, Mayo came back and the Connacht men showed great heart to tie up a game that seemed lost. It’s hard to resist the thought that today was Mayo’s best chance for the Sam. They were, by common consent, the better team and would surely have won were it not for the costly concession of two own-goals. One hopes they have enough in the tank to go again. The replay promises to be unmissable viewing!
Image courtesy of Wikipedia: By Aleksandr Osipov (José Mourinho) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AJos%C3%A9_Mourinho_in_Kyiv%2C_October_2015.jpg