Jose Mourinho Follows the Ho Chi Minh Trail to Victory

Published: 02nd March 2015 08:57 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd March 2015 08:57 AM   |  A+A-


The methods of Jose Mourinho form a sizeable section of Alastair Campbell's new book Winners: And How They Succeed and, during a talk at the Bath Literature Festival on Friday, he explained why politicians could learn so much from the Chelsea manager.

Specifically, he compared Mourinho to Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese leader from 1945 until his death in 1969, "because he is so pragmatic". Campbell said: "Does Jose play the beautiful game? He can do but he doesn't if he doesn't have to. He just wants to win."

Mourinho has certainly tried to play the beautiful game during periods of his second incarnation at Chelsea - we all know that Roman Abramovich craves style as well as silverware - but, when it really mattered, this particular script could have been written in advance.

An extra defender was selected in midfield, Chelsea absorbed pressure, denied Tottenham Hotspur space, waited for their chances on the counter-attack and struck with two slightly scruffy goals. It was not especially pretty but, after the fireworks at White Hart Lane on New Year's Day when Chelsea were defeated 5-3, it was utterly predictable that Mourinho should search first for the extinguisher.

As he himself told the Telegraph earlier this season: "I am not fundamentalist in football. People ask me: 'What is your model of play?' I say: 'Model of what?' Model of play against who? When? With which players? Am I too stupid or am I too smart? My model of play is that I have to find where is the weakness of my opponent and where is his strength."

Mourinho had clearly identified Tottenham's strength as the Harry Kane/Christian Eriksen axis and, in reorganising his midfield to integrate Kurt Zouma, he was also paying the highest compliment to the competition. On Friday, Mourinho had described this as "the most important cup final of my career" and, in every utterance and gesture, you could see that this was not an empty sound bite. Mourinho had not been back at Wembley since the build-up to his 2007 FA Cup final triumph was farcically dominated by a police dispute about his pet terrier and, on his return yesterday, he was out on the pitch fully an hour before the game to simply absorb the atmosphere and occasion.

It was then also noticeable after the two teams had lined up for the national anthem that Mourinho should chase down every one of his players for a last hug. On the final whistle, a prolonged embrace with assistant Rui Faria followed by a telephone call to his wife, some theatrics in the team picture and then a huge uppercut celebration all underlined just how much it meant.

"It was important for me to feel like a kid, even at 52 years old," Mourinho said. Whether it is a hatred of losing - as is highlighted in Campbell's book - or just winning, days like this are what define him.

The wider importance of this first trophy in the second part of Mourinho's tenure at Chelsea also really cannot be underestimated, not just for this new group of players but actually the manager himself.

The general perception of Mourinho as the self-styled 'Special One' and just about the most confident man in world sport is misplaced. Listen to him often and you sense an unmistakeable desire for approval and sensitivity to criticism. He is always ready to respond to any perceived slight with a battery of statistics about his remarkable career.

Mourinho, then, would have been acutely aware that the last really big victory was actually winning La Liga almost three years ago. Lose - and even with a five?point lead in the Premier League - and we might just have been able to identify the first chink in Mourinho's career. As it is, Chelsea can now attack the Premier League and Champions League knowing they have something tangible to show for the season.

Winning will certainly send a powerful momentum surge through the dressing room and it also vindicates what has surely been a concerted off-field strategy since Christmas. Study Mourinho's career and there is often a behavioural pattern whenever the decisive final weeks of the season loom. Every perceived miscarriage of justice is highlighted and there is an almost blind support for his players.

In short, a siege mentality has been adopted, with the players seemingly encouraged to believe that the whole world outside of Chelsea - and certainly their guardian Mourinho - is against them.

The extent to which it is contrived could be the subject of an entire psychology PhD but the bottom line is that it works. There is an extraordinary team ethic and, in every post-match press conference yesterday, it was striking how Mourinho constantly highlighted those Chelsea players who did not start. The ends with Mourinho almost always justify the means and, in the 12th cup final of his career, this was a 10th victory. It was also a 21st major trophy.

In its execution, as was generally the case with Porto, with Inter Milan, with Real Madrid and the old Chelsea, his players did not particularly go out to entertain or win approval beyond their own fans. They went out to execute their winning plan with clinical precision. Chi Minh would surely approve.


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