When Jose Mourinho was manager of Chelsea the first time around he blamed his side’s failure to keep up with Manchester United in 2006-2007 on the referees, particularly in light to a penalty Cristiano Ronaldo won against Middlesbrough.
“The whole world knows how Mourinho is,” Ronaldo responded, when asked about Mourinho’s comments. “He always has something to say to gain attention, especially when he’s not happy with the work of his players. He never recognises he is wrong.”
Chelsea had started the season as overwhelming favourites, after adding Ashley Cole, Michael Ballack and Andriy Shevchenko, amongst others, to their title winning squad. In contrast, United had sold their top scorer, Ruud van Nistelrooy, and bought no replacement. Their only new signing was Michael Carrick. With Mourinho a few weeks away from losing the title, he reacted angrily to Ronaldo’s assessment.
“A player who wants to be the best in the world needs to behave well, to keep quiet and have sufficient honesty and maturity to verify that, against the facts that I have shown, there is no argument on his part,” Mourinho said. “If he says that it is false that Manchester United have conceded penalties that were not given, it’s lies. And if he is a liar he will never reach the highest level that he desires in football.”
These were hypocritical comments for Mourinho to make, given how regularly Didier Drogba dived, but the point about lying was an odd one, particularly in light of his own recent history.
Mourinho had claimed that he saw Barcelona manager Frank Rikjaard enter referee Anders Frisk’s office at half time in a Champions League game in 2005.
“When I saw Rijkaard entering the referee’s dressing room I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “When Didier Drogba was sent off (after half-time) I wasn’t surprised.”
Frisk received death threats from Chelsea fans and was forced in to early retirement as a result. Mourinho later confessed he had lied when he said he saw Frisk meeting with Rijkaard.
“I saw nothing,” Mourinho revealed. “I wasn’t involved. I am always the first man to leave the pitch at halftime.”
Sir Alex Ferguson was quick to protect his young superstar and highlighted Mourinho’s hypocritical behaviour.
“Jose seems to be on some sort of personal crusade about regulations and honesty, suspicions in the game,” he said. “Everyone has an opinion on things. Ronaldo has an opinion, Carlos Queiroz has an opinion, but that doesn’t mean to say they are liars. He has accused Barcelona in the past, he’s accused the Swedish referee (Anders Frisk), he put the German referee (Markus Merk) under pressure the other night. He suggested their players were going to hunt down Drogba. Jesus Christ, he’s gone on and on and on. It’s a rant all the time now.”
Still, Mourinho wasn’t finished with Ronaldo yet, and after Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Bolton on the day United came back from 2-0 down to beat Everton 4-2, Mourinho ripped in to Ronaldo again.
“It’s a game where a kid had some statements not very… not showing maturity and respect, maybe difficult childhood, no education, maybe the consequence of that.”
Mourinho was raised in relative middle-class comfort in the city of Setubal, whilst Ronaldo spent his childhood in the working-class district of Funchal in the Madeira Islands.
Ferguson was again quick to defend his player, hinting that whilst Mourinho might be university educated, he was lacking in principles.
“It is really below the belt to bring class into it,” Ferguson said. “I don’t know why he has done this. Maybe he is trying to unsettle the boy. Just because you come from a poor, working-class background does not mean to say you are not educated. What Ronaldo has are principles – that is why he has not responded to it. Other people are educated but have no principles.”
The player and manager had to bury the hatchet when Mourinho became the manager of Real Madrid, the club Ronaldo left United for a year earlier.
Mourinho has since left Madrid but Ronaldo was not involved in the final match day squad because of a supposed back injury, yet he was seen out clubbing until 7am a few days later.
Speaking with Spanish TV show Punto Pelota, Mourinho has revealed some of the friction he still had with the player, with him seemingly not a fan of Ronaldo’s attitude.
“I had only one problem with him, very simple, very basic,” Mourinho said. “Which was when a coach criticises a player from a tactical viewpoint trying to improve what in my view could have been improved. And at that moment he didn’t take it very well because maybe he thinks he knows everything and the coach cannot help him to develop more. Cristiano has had three fantastic seasons with me, I don’t know if they were the best of his career because he had some fantastic moments with Manchester United.”
Ronaldo has reportedly sold his house in Madrid and is looking to move clubs. Can we rule out a reunion with Mourinho at Chelsea?