Manchester United manager’s mastery of psychology gets players to buy into his philosophy but it does not last
Last season Eden Hazard observed that the main difference between José Mourinho and Antonio Conte was that Mourinho does not practise “automisations”. He does not have players practise set moves they can perform almost unconsciously that can be deployed at great pace when the situation demands. He organises his defence and leaves his forwards to improvise. That has been taken by some as evidence that Mourinho is no longer at the forefront of coaching – and perhaps it is – but it is also a detail that explains his entire methodology.
While studying at the Instituto Superior de Educação Física in Lisbon Mourinho came under the influence of Prof Manuel Sérgio, who believed that football knowledge was not enough for a coach, that he also had to be a psychologist, a public speaker and have a grasp of the sciences. Specifically he gave lectures on emotions and how they could be manipulated. Mourinho followed them with a rapacious curiosity. “He looked,” Manuel Sérgio said, “like a cat catching birds.”