Jose Mourinho’s three-fingured salute first surfaced after Manchester United’s home defeat to Tottenham in August.
“What was the result? 3-0. Three!” he said in his post-match press conference, raising three digits . “It also means three Premierships, and I won more Premierships alone than the other 19 managers together. Three for me, and two for them. Respect, man. Respect. Respect.”
The same signal made an appearance at Chelsea on Saturday when he followed a chorus of abuse from the Stamford Bridge fans whom once backed him to the hilt by pointing at himself, then the turf, then holding aloft the three fingers that signified his trio of Premier League titles won in west London.
Come Tuesday there was a similar gesture for the Juventus supporters giving the United boss grief from the away section of Old Trafford . Mourinho’s response was to recall the treble that he won with Inter in 2010, achieved while a Juve side still getting back on its feet after Calciopoli could only sit and watch.
It seems Mourinho has a three-pronged answer to everything. If only it were a positive message he was sending each time it would make for a great marketing campaign for a United club whose crest centres around a red devil holding aloft a trident.
But in truth there is very little to which United would really want to associate themselves in Mourinho’s remarks, not least because none of it has anything to do with the club he is managing these days. In fact, very little of it refers to anything which has gone on in football for the best part of a decade.
The three Premier League titles of which he is keen to remind everybody happened in 2005, 2006 and 2015 with Chelsea, while that Inter treble campaign is this season marking its nine-year anniversary. What relevance does that have with football in 2018-19, let alone Manchester United in 2018-19?
It must not be understated what an impact Mourinho has had on the sport since blasting onto the scene with Porto as a UEFA Cup winner at the age of 40 in 2003, but the time has long-since arrived for the Portuguese to command respect all over again with further achievements in the modern game rather begging for it with references to former glories.
His claims that last season’s second-place finish with United was one of his greatest achievements in football are at odds with his current behaviour. If 2017-18 was so great, why is he digging deeper into the archives for responses to slights on his character? In fact, why respond at all?
Well the answer to that is that he has nothing else to show for himself right now as United continue to struggle under his stewardship ahead of a must-win fixture against Everton at Old Trafford on Sunday. Following the late concession of an equaliser at the Bridge, United sit in 10th place after nine games in Mourinho’s third season at the club. He, and the club, would have expected more.
Many an exceptional manager has not had the run of success that Mourinho enjoyed between 2002 and 2010, but his spell at Real Madrid, his return to Chelsea and now this tenure at United have not produced similar results. For many that is simply a story of the peaks and troughs of a career in football management.
But the man who billed himself as “a special one” when first arriving at Chelsea still wants to remind people how he is not “one from the bottle” at a time when he may increasingly be proving that he actually is exactly that these days.
If anything, he is doing himself no favours with the constant crowing about his past record as it merely reminds the football public of just how far his standards have dropped.
Football leaves everyone behind at some point. If you stand still for a second, you’re running backwards before you know it. The Premier League anthem might as well be Janet Jackson singing ‘What have you done for me lately?’
Claudio Ranieri did the impossible by winning a league championship with Leicester City but was dumped within nine months. David Moyes spent years over-achieving with Everton yet his name was mud as soon as things began to unravel in his 10-month stint as Manchester United manager. Several bosses have had fans singing their name after promotion in May and calling for their head 10 games into the following campaign as the team struggles to adapt at the top level.
Football’s environment in the 21st century dictates that harking to the past satisfies almost nobody, and as such Mourinho’s reminders of his one-time prowess have fallen on deaf ears.
It is time for him to stop living in the past and concentrate on dragging Manchester United into the future before they, like their manager, become a former giant trading on bygone achievements and little else.