Late in May of this year, English football fans were revving up for yet more years of hurt whilst mockingly claiming that ‘it’s coming home.’
It is probable that after the unexpected summer’s success you have forgotten the shenanigans that were ongoing late in May – namely that tattoo of a gun on Raheem Sterling’s right leg, but more importantly, the reaction of the media.
This reaction – which saw Sterling’s tattoo of an M16 assault rifle dubbed “sickening” – moved Match of the Day guru Gary Lineker to reach for the keyboard and head to Twitter. He tweeted to his seven million followers: “Unique to our country to attempt to destroy a player’s morale before a major tournament. It’s weird, unpatriotic and sad.”
Fast forward to today, and José Mourinho claimed after his side’s dramatic 3-2 victory over Newcastle that for “the first time I see in football a manhunting.” He was of course referring to the intense media-led speculation over his future in the Old Trafford hot-seat. He went on to say that: “If the board hadn’t texted me, I’d have thought I was gone [sacked] too.”
The fact that José still finds himself in a job despite the Daily Mirror’s headline that ‘Mourinho is set to be sacked whatever Manchester United’s result v Newcastle’ is telling of this manhunt. For the United manager to claim this is the first time this has happened in football is, however, not so accurate. Manchester City and England star Raheem Sterling has certainly been subject to a similar agenda prior to Mourinho’s latest complaints, as was seen back in May.
Be it the aforementioned tattoo – which was in fact to remind him never to touch a gun after his father was shot dead when he was a child – or the buying of a house for his mother, Sterling seems to manage to make the headlines, and it is never positive.
Such reports led Sterling to judge that the media “hate what they don’t even know.” So media manhunts exist as certain outlets look to relentlessly criticise players and managers without any true justification. If this was not the case the BBC would not have run an article back in June questioning whether ‘England have the most critical media in world football’ and concluding exactly that.
It does not seem right that the role of the media should be to treat Mourinho, Sterling, Paul Pogba and others in this way.
This leads us to question what the role of the media is, or at least should be, in the world of football. Reporting without opinion is not an option – banning criticism would make our journalism ever so dull.
But in an internet world where success is determined by the number of clicks, can the Mirror be blamed for launching an ‘exclusive’ story on how Mourinho was to be sacked regardless of the Newcastle result? Supposedly this report came from “senior United sources.” Something does not add up.
Twisting reality – as was seen with Sterling’s ‘scandalous’ tattoo – is not a desirable trait, but if The Sun can gain revenue and the press is free, it will inevitably happen.
The whole thing is then turned on its head when José Mourinho’s comments about Raheem Sterling after the World Cup are considered. He said he was “surprised” Sterling was in the team, and that the Manchester City player was not in a strong “psychological condition.”
I know Mourinho is not a journalist, but it does seem intriguing how willing he is to hand out the criticism. Perhaps the hunted Mourinho is one of the many Sterling-hunters.
Image: Ronnie Macdonald via Flickr