Chuffed to bits for Rodgers and Mourinho.

Published: Monday, 09 November 2020

Take look at the top of the PL. First and second are two guys that have been pilloried by journalists down the years - me included. But I was wrong and now I couldn’t be more pleased for Mssrs Rodgers and Mourinho. I really hope one or the other finishes top this season.

I’ve got to hold my hands up and admit I’ve been a bit harsh on Rodgers. He’d waited a long time before getting his revenge a couple of months ago. Well - I say harsh. As I’m writing I withdraw - I wasn’t all wrong - but fair play to Brendan for giving me a wrap over the knuckles when we spoke recently.

He was kind enough to speak to me and Andy during the first lockdown. Before we started he reminded me that I’d had a little go at him for leaving Steven Gerrard out of a CL game at a Real Madrid. It made me laugh. He’d noticed. He’d waited. And he went in high! Good man.

The puzzling thing was - why had he waited so long? Look - I know he’s not everybody’s cup of tea because he can be a little verbose - but he’s always been good to me. When he left Liverpool he came out to join us in Qatar on BeINSPORTS and we had a fantastic few days. He was great fun and couldn’t have been more compliant. He did everything we asked of him.

I’ve talked about the car journey that we shared back to his hotel before. He explained how he had to be really careful about the next job he took because it was going to make or break him. We discussed Arsenal - which I still think would’ve been perfect for him - but he didn’t mention Celtic. As it turned out he couldn’t have chosen better. From being someone who couldn’t win trophies he got greedy and won everything - again and again. I’m sure the timing of his departure must haunt him - but he’d earned the right to decide when to go.

I also wasn’t sure about his decision to take the Leicester job. I used to call them ‘Chelsea light’. Like the West London club their dressing room was brutal. It chewed managers up. I couldn’t see the boys embracing Rodgers’ style. I was wrong again!

Last season ended badly and of course it led us all to conclude that Leicester’s time with the big boys was over. Not a bit of it.

The recruitment at Leicester has been fantastic. Sales of players has been even better - and still they’re winning. In fact, who else right now can boast wins over Guardiola (and that was a proper spanking) Bielsa, and ‘mini me’ (Arteta)? I suppose we should also add Numes to the list. Rodgers has gone in against all four and walked away with the points. We’re told these are some of the best coaches Europe has to offer. So where does that rank Rodgers?

When Mourinho was with us in Qatar I asked him ‘any regrets about Manchester United?’ ‘Yes’, he said. ‘Taking it and not leaving at the end of the second season’. Looking back now he can’t really regret having taken it - but he should’ve gone at the end of the second season. All the signs of what was to come were there. Klopp was right when he said recently ‘If I was smart I’d have left last season’. Timing is everything.

I had a pop when Mourinho started behaving like a spoilt schoolboy again. But he knew what he was doing. He played his way out. He knew it was the final nail when he left Pogba out for three consecutive games. He did it on purpose. Job done.

The relief at the club was palpable and the former manager of relegated Cardiff and Molde initially benefitted from that. But I’m afraid United are what they are - a big club in terminal decline. I don’t believe anyone is going to turn them round until the things we don’t see are corrected. Behind the scenes United are light years away from the rest.  But let’s not get distracted.

On leaving, Mourinho was described as a dinosaur - whose best days were behind him? Why? Largely because he believes in playing a different way to Guardiola - thank goodness.

At Spurs he’s been criticised for letting them be too ‘Spursy’. Also for winning ‘ugly’. You can’t have it both ways. I said last week - there’s something special going on at Tottenham - and the majority of the players know it. I wish them all the success in the world. It’s overdue - and for Mourinho any triumphs now will be the sweetest yet.

Meanwhile, Guardiola continues to toil - complaining bitterly about not being able to use five subs. You only used one at the weekend man - so what’s the problem? Klopp had a little moan up as well - and he only used two.

Oh - and there is no way in the world Jesus meant his cheeky little turn. You only had to look at his face when asked - he knew it was a mis-control - but top marks for reacting the way he did.

One last thing. If you care about football outside the top league then listen to the most recent episode of KeysandGray The Podcast. We spoke with Rick Parry, Chief Exec of the EFL. His thoughts were fascinating. Change is coming - whether we like it or not. I embrace the need for it to happen. Have a listen. And then tell me who the dinosaurs are.