Roy Curtis: Klopp has the momentum but write off Mourinho at your peril

SoccerBy Roy Curtis
Beside the hip gegenpresser, the Manchester United manager is dismissed as some sort of tactical dinosaur
Beside the hip gegenpresser, the Manchester United manager is dismissed as some sort of tactical dinosaur

THE halo blazing brightly in Jurgen Klopp’s airspace illuminates the crown of thorns tormenting Jose Mourinho.

A withering consensus has gained momentum, one declaring that next to Liverpool’s brilliant, modish German, Mourinho is somehow careworn, archaic, time-expired.

Beside the hip gegenpresser, the Manchester United manager is dismissed as some sort of tactical dinosaur, an unsophisticated creature of the primordial sludge.

Mourinho, stripped of his aura, is presented as an emperor wearing nothing more than tattered rags.

Lost, it seems, in the rush to extreme judgement, cast aside like an abandoned currency, is one of the most gilded coaching CVs the football universe has ever known.

The sharp devaluation of the double Champions League winner’s stock is curious.

At the very least, the hypothesis that presents the Special One as a rusting yesterday’s man seems hopelessly rash.

Mourinho’s 18th “major” was secured just 17 months ago; Klopp – whose three trophies are dwarfed by his rival’s serial accumulation – is into a fifth year without meaningful silverware.

Those keen to shine a light on what they deem Jose’s faltering adjustment to life as curator at the Theatre of Dreams ignore the most inconvenient fact.

It is the one that announces Mourinho’s Manchester United win percentage (63.6 per cent) as significantly superior to Klopp’s (49 per cent) return in his 12 months on Merseyside.

Maybe, then, those who are already carving the Special One’s initials into a managerial headstone might be minded to wait 36 hours before advancing their handiwork.  

Why is there such certainty Klopp will press home his new advantage tomorrow, a picador driving his sword through the heart of the snorting, wounded Portuguese bull?

Even the odds-layers appear certain: In a two horse race, United are freely available as 5/2 outsiders.

It is true that Liverpool have gained thrilling forward thrust and will pursue a sixth win on the spin when the Lancashire titans whip Anfield into a Monday night fever.

Equally, Mourinho has endured the bleakest 12 months of his career, the onlookers reading imminent doom from body language that has, increasingly, seemed resigned, lost.

Some of his wilder lunges cost him the Chelsea dressing-room, a pattern of indiscriminate detonations which continued into his early, tetchy weeks in Manchester.

Luke Shaw, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Jesse Lingard were among those scorched by their manager’s acidic tongue.

Mourinho’s one win in five head-to-heads with Klopp – a second leg consolation prize – was insufficient to prevent Dortmund advancing to the 2013 Champions League final.

Still though, there seems a massive misdiagnosis in most of the Mourinho health-checks: As if a head-cold is being interpreted as license to prepare the obituaries.

The poverty of their mid-September dip – three losses on the spin – wasn’t pretty, but neither was it terminal.

Yet it was greeted hysterically, a week-long blip viewed through a more damning prism than, say, Klopp’s five-games without a win in January and February of this year.

You don’t have to share Mourinho’s paranoia to deduce that perhaps Klopp has been thrown a little more slack.

Clearly, he is a more engaging figure than the brooding Mourinho, less narcissistic, more empathetic.

But if a waspish personality is enough to condemn a manager then Alex Ferguson would not have lasted 26 minutes at Old Trafford, never mind 26 years.

Already, Mourinho has splashed disinfectant on the bacteria that lingered after the polluting Louis van Gaal era.

Ferguson-era Showtime has not yet returned (Mourinho’s inherent pragmatism means it likely never will), but the catatonic last days of the Dutchman are a distant memory.

Mourinho has torn down the crumbling edifice that is Wayne Rooney.

And against Leicester and Stoke (though the latter game ended in a draw), United looked not unlike Fergie’s old force.

Certainly, the Scottish laird would have approved of their pacey thrusts, the sharp passing combinations.

Still it seems Mourinho must, for now at least, settle for a cornerpost in what is anointed Klopp’s kingdom.

As the German collected the Manager of the Month award on Friday, a reward for Liverpool’s luminous charge through September, Jose simmered in the shadows.

Though just four years separate them the Portuguese (53) is portrayed as an ancient, wheezing behind a strategic Zimmer as the coltish Klopp (49) races toward the horizon.

But, because Klopp is such a charismatic, camera-friendly figure, perception sometimes blurs reality.

If Liverpool’s creative flurry has seen them twice score five and hit both Arsenal and Leicester for four, they have leaked more Premier League goals than United.

It sits uneasily with Klopp’s reputation as a prince of coaches that the alarming defensive cracks exposed by Seville last May have yet to be repaired.  

Liverpool are without a league clean sheet since May.

Might Mourinho have found the dim-switch with which to lower the wattage of Klopp’s blazing corona?

Could tonight be the time a thorn or two are inserted into that crown of light?