In Good Conscience

If Jose wants to fix what's broken, he has to trust medical team

Does the ghost of Dr Eva Carneiro visit Jose Mourinho in his five star luxury confinement in a Manchester hotel?

A year has passed since Mourinho blamed the team doctor for treating an injured player at Chelsea - and ensured she would never work under him again. Now he has found new medical experts, and new players, to have a go at.

At Chelsea, it was Eden Hazard who lay inert on the ground prompting the doctor and head physiotherapist to rush to do what they do, administer first aid. Mourinho railed that Hazard did not need treatment, and he, the boss, would not tolerate their presence on his staff.

Astonishingly, Chelsea backed the manager, at least until they sacked him when it became obvious that players were not playing for him any more.

Mourinho accused the players of betraying his brilliance.

Mourinho never played to this level, but surely he had observed that the bond between players and medical practitioners was fundamental in any sport.

You can view the Hazard of last season under Mourinho and the Hazard back to his best under Antonio Conte today to make your own conclusions about Mourinho's man management.

You might conclude from the tribunal that Chelsea contested, but then capitulated upon after Dr Carneiro was ostracised for nine months, whether "he" or "she" was right in the action in a game against Swansea at the start of last season.

Soon after the tribunal commenced, Chelsea settled out of court and paid the doctor a confidential sum, widely reported to be £5 million (S$8.9 million).

The principle is more important than the money.

Chelsea issued an apology that stated: "We wish to place on record that in running onto the pitch Dr Carneiro was following both the rules of the game and fulfilling her responsibility to the players as a doctor, putting their safety first."

Mourinho by that time had come off the unemployment list to take the job he most cherished, Manchester United.

United knew all about his 23 trophies won with Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.

Presumably, United took due diligence over the possibility that the Mourinho magic might itself have vanished? Had he been so betrayed at Chelsea, or had he in fact lost the plot? Crucially, had he undermined players' trust by bawling out the doctor?

Mourinho never played at this level, but surely he has observed that the bond between players and medical practitioners is fundamental in any sport.

Dr Carneiro, perhaps, proved a feisty lady in her defiance of Mourinho's public condemnation. But players are at their most vulnerable when they are broken - and they put their careers in medical hands at a time when they need help the most.

A year on, Jose Mourinho is trying to fix something that has been broken at United since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Mourinho is the third man in the chair since then, and has been allowed to break world records to sign players he wanted to begin the repair.

But the manager is brooding. He is living at the Lowry Hotel because his daughter (aged 20) is at university in London and his son (17) is pursuing football as a career in London. The effect of the separation from his wife and family is clear to see on his face. It is human to feel estranged.

We can sympathise, to a degree, with his loneliness, and his publicly expressed feeling of entrapment. He says his fame is such that he cannot walk out of the hotel or go to a restaurant because the media and the public are out there watching.

His life, apparently, is a constant diet on room service.

He lives, breathes, sleeps United. It is not simply his job, it is the global exam he is sitting. This is the club, with all the wealth in the world to allow him to build on the legacy not just of Sir Alex, but of Sir Matt Busby before that.

Results have not come straight away, and neither has the cavalier football that those two Scots imbued into the Red Devils throughout half a century.

Mourinho, with his cautious mind, will have to change his lifetime habit to follow their template. Meantime (and he will get time because United cannot keep hiring and firing on a seasonal basis) a fissure appears between the Portuguese and his players.

It stems from medical matters. United's injuries mount, with Wayne Rooney, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Phil Jones, Anthony Martial, Eric Bailly among the wounded. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Michael Carrick, Morgan Schneiderlin and Matteo Darmian are among the discarded.

And starlets Marcus Rashford and Timothy Fosu-Mensah have yet to win over Mourinho.

Yet the manager singled out Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw for failing the club. Smalling's toe is reportedly broken, although this was denied by the manager yesterday, and Shaw has recurring pain as he tries to overcome a double leg fracture from last year.

Mourinho said on MUTV that they are letting the side down.

He insinuated that they are too soft, and from "another culture, not my culture" because they declined to play through pain against Swansea last weekend.

He had instructed Smalling to take two painkilling injections for his swollen toe before the Chelsea-United game last month. The player was then blamed for being too slow to prevent Pedro scoring Chelsea's opening goal in the first minute.

And Mourinho showed little empathy with Shaw, 21, who might well fear pain following his horrendous broken leg.

Moreover the "new" United manager has just ordered a systemic review of first-team affairs - from pre-season tour planning, to fitness, sports science and the squad at his disposal.

One of his summer signings, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, came with his own physio, Dario Fort, but the Swede now questions whether United's training regimen is causing his lack of sharpness.

Ibrahimovic, 35, has stepped up from the French league to the more physical EPL for the first time. But just days after Mourinho accused Smalling of lacking the fibre to play through pain, we read that Smalling could be out until Christmas.

Dr Eva is nowhere in sight, but history might be repeating itself.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2016, with the headline 'If Jose wants to fix what's broken, he has to trust medical team'. Print Edition | Subscribe