JOSE Mourinho is a cunning fox.
Love him or loathe him, we can all admire how cunning the Chelsea manager is: mind games etc and all that.
But this time, in his post-match comments after his side’s defeat by Sunderland on Saturday, he outsmarted even himself.
On the face of it, it was another brilliant stratagem – taking complete control of what should be a two-way conversation with the media and getting his message alone across.
Who else could escape questions over the utterly disgraceful behaviour of his foam-mouthed assistant first-team coach Rui Faria, who had to be physically restrained and pulled back by the his hair as he tried to get to referee Mike Dean.
Who else, could have avoided questions about the title chasers losing to the team at the bottom of the Premier League?
And this is what he said: “Gentlemen, I need to say that I will not wait for your questions.
“I am so sorry but I can say what I want to say to you in four simple points.
“The first is to congratulate my players, they did everything they could.
“They played superbly from the first second to the last second and left everything on the pitch.
“My second point is to offer my congratulations to Sunderland.
“It doesn’t matter how, why or which way they won but they won three points.
“Thirdly, I want to congratulate referee Mike Dean, I thought his performance was unbelievable.
“And my fourth point is I want to congratulate Mike Riley, the head of referees, for what they have done in the last few months because it is fantastic for the way the Championship race is going.
It was the first time Mourinho had spoken post-match in three games, since being sent off at Aston Villa for entering the pitch last month.
And his words were a masterpiece of misdirection – intended to turn all the attention on the officials, rather than face uncomfortable truths about Chelsea or even Sunderland.
It was a thinly veiled but potentially explosive criticism of the officials.
This time, though, it felt like the boy who cried wolf just once too often and the media coverage since, has reflected that.
Far from being lauded or supported, the words of the Chelsea boss have put himself in the dock.
Mourinho has come in for almost universal criticism over the weekend for churlishness, immaturity, poor sportsmanship, mean-spiritedness, being embarrassing and being just plain wrong.
No-one is buying this claim that the referees are against Chelsea either by accident or design – it’s an outrageous and unworthy suggestion.
And so, Mourinho has done himself no favours, even with those who admire him.
Not so cunning after all.