We fought hard, we fought hard (Southampton 0, Man Utd 1)

All three points for United in a performance in which for Mourinho, “we fought hard, we fought hard.”

Defensive solidity was the most important element.

“We did for 20 minutes what many Premier League teams do for 90 minutes with five at the back and defend with a very low block.”.

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Pressed to praise Lukaku, Mourinho is qualified in his response.

“He is a striker who is scoring goals. His work is important for us.”

“He could score a second goal and kill the game. He did not, but his work is important like anyone else.”.

In contrast – given the opportunity to comment on the performance of his wide-men – Mourinho picks out Rashford as being “phenomenal”.

This contrast in approach to two of his strikers is likely influenced by their relative confidence.

Lukaku’s goal return in comparison to Rashford’s this season means Mourinho is knowingly directing his praise where he feels it can have most impact on the player and more importantly on his team.

Leadership communication lesson

The ability to publicly – and privately –  praise members of a team is an important tool for many leaders. As with any tool, however, it needs to be used knowingly. What should matter most to a leader is the objective they are pursuing and the decision on how to use praise should flow from this. Fairness is important and it is clearly a fine line to tread, but if praise can have more impact on the performance of one individual over another then it should be used in this way.

 

 

 

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The game was totally under control (Arsenal 2, Man Utd 0)

So this is how the 25 game unbeaten run ended.

A run that had seen the club move from the depths of despair in sixth to the dizzying heights of fifth.

In his post-match interview Mourinho wants to focus our attention on two aspects, the performance and the limitations on his squad.

He does this through braggadocio – elevating his praise for his players.

“I like individual performances and I also like the collective performance.”

“I cannot ask more from players who play not one second of football in the last seven weeks.”

“Jones, Smalling, Mata – amazing.”

“The kid the same – amazing job.”

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“We were good, well organised, played well, deserved to win and Arsenal were not better than us.”

“The game was totally under control.”

He ends with a joke at Arsenal’s expense and one that reminds every listener of his success as a manager.

“Finally, I leave the stadium with the Arsenal fans happy. It is the first time I see them smile and see them enjoy.”

Leadership communication lesson

Humour is a powerful communication tool. It stimulates emotions and builds on a common set of assumptions or knowledge between you and your audience – in this case Mourinho’s record against Wenger. Get your joke wrong, however, and you will lose the audience. If you are preparing for a speech or presentation and want to use humour, make sure you have tested it in advance. Ask a colleague the question, “Is it funny?” and, if not, cull it.

 

 

Who can I blame? (Man Utd 1, B’Mouth 1)

The most disappointing result for the top 6 at the weekend was at Old Trafford.

Mourinho only needs to remember Van Gaal’s sacking on the day of winning the FA cup to know the relative balance of priorities between cup competitions and the league.

The failure at home to beat a Bournemouth side reduced to ten men raises questions about an assumed narrative that has Man Utd returning to the top 4.

In his post-match interview Mourinho chooses to focus attention on the first-half.

“We played a phenomenal first half and we should be winning 3 or 4 nil and we end the first half at 1-1.”.

“It is as simple as that. Who can I blame? Ourselves. Nobody else.”

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And yet it is not as simple as that.

Instead,  we have the use of apoplanesis as the subject is quickly changed from “ourselves” to  “a team that gave up to play”.

We have auxesis in his use of inflated language, in addition to “giving up”, their goalkeeper was “phenomenal”.

And we have a logos that it is very difficult to score when you have 1o men who do not want to win.

He has changed the narrative from the problems at his own club to a critique of Bournemouth, while covering his tracks by claiming he is “not critical” of Bournemouth’s approach.

Mourinho may not be in the top 4, but in his use of rhetoric, there are few managers who can touch him.

Leadership communication lesson

Communication is a skill to be learned and to be developed. Mourinho will have likely learned through observation and repetition, rather than studying the underlying rhetorical skills, but learning these skills is an invaluable shortcut for anyone who finds themselves in a leadership role. Look at Obama, look at Mourinho and even look at Donald Trump. It is the command of language that, time and time again, separates leaders from followers.