Jose Mourinho devoted his final pre-match press conference at Manchester United to discussing what constitutes successful management.
He was asked if Jurgen Klopp should be solely judged at Liverpool on the trophies he’d won, and naturally, Mourinho , conscious he’d won two cups at Old Trafford in less time than the German had won none, said he should.
United lost at Anfield, the board decided their chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League were disappearing and Mourinho was sacked. His Europa League and League Cup wins didn’t save him.
The same thing happened to Mourinho at Chelsea three years earlier, when, after seven wins in 17 games, Roman Abramovich felt he was leading them out of the golden European places and waved good-bye.
The point being, Mourinho was wrong.
Managers aren’t necessarily judged on the cups they’ve won but whether they are taking the club forward. And the yardstick is nearly always the league position.
It’s been the topic of the week, especially after Klopp once again sacrificed progress in the FA Cup to focus on the league, which critics say will haunt him if he ends another season trophyless.
The German responded to Mourinho last month by admitting that eventually he will have to win trophies at Anfield, but more important was putting down solid foundations to go for the top titles.
And reaching last season’s Champions League Final, as well as achieving a second top-four finish were more indicative of Liverpool’s progress than lifting either domestic cup.
Mauricio Pochettino implied the same this week, when he pointed out that for Tottenham to finish in the top-three for the past three seasons was a remarkable achievement, and if people wanted silverware as well he needed to be given the same money as the richest clubs.
He referenced Arsene Wenger, who was fire-proof at Arsenal when delivering top-four finishes, but once they dried up, despite winning FA Cups, was doomed.
Worryingly for Spurs perhaps, Pochettino said he’d like to ask Wenger if the stick he took for not pulling off the impossible, was worth it.
He could always ask Antonio Conte who won the FA Cup last season for Chelsea, but a fifth-place finish did for him. Or Kenny Dalglish, who won Liverpool the League Cup in 2012 but finished outside the Champions League places that season, so was shown the door.
Or Louis Van Gaal, who won the FA Cup in 2016 with Manchester United, but finished fifth and, despite protestations about delivering glory, was gone.
Being a United man, I’m guessing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows why Mourinho and Van Gaal had to go.
They can talk up the romance of the cups all they like, but fall out of Europe’s elite and lose the money and kudos that go with it, and you won’t be managing Manchester United for long.
It’s why Solskjaer’s trip to north London on Sunday for a league game against Spurs is way more important than the one United will make a fortnight later to face Arsenal in the FA Cup.
Not just because by outwitting Pochettino he would neutralise his biggest rival for Mourinho’s old job, but maintaining a winning momentum that carried him into the top four would prove his mettle and keep the bean-counters in Florida happy.
When he took over, four league games ago, United were 11 points adrift of the top four. Win at Wembley and the gap to the Champions League places could be down to three.
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That will re-invigorate Old Trafford far more than a decent cup run.
Which is why Mourinho was wrong and Klopp and Pochettino are right.
The first job of a modern manager is laying the foundations of sustained success for your club, not winning a minor cup to fill in an embarrassing gap on your CV.
And as Solskjaer prepares for those two big tests in London, he’d do well to recall what one of that city’s most famous philosophers, Bruce Forsyth, was fond of saying:
“What do points make? Prizes.”