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Portuguese man of awe

Tony Cascarino: Jose Mourinho’s ability to out-psych Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger is one of the reasons why Chelsea will win the Premiership. Another is Thierry Henry’s lack of application in big games.

Tony Cascarino, 19 Nov 2004

Everybody goes on about the mind games between Fergie and Arsene Wenger, but the hands-down winner this season in that department is Jose Mourinho. While the others squabble like silly little kids, he’s telling the Premiership bigwigs which weekend they’re going to win the league so they can send the trophy round to Stamford Bridge.

Then there’s the “5-4 is a hockey score not a football score” line he came up with after the Arsenal v. Spurs game – brilliant! He’s got the same wonderful confidence/arrogance that Muhammad Ali had when he was Heavyweight Champion of the World. It gets up people’s noses, sure, but it’s not idle boasting. If you look at their respective performances this season in both Europe and the league, Chelsea have been a better side than Arsenal.

The Gunners’ biggest strength, Thierry Henry, can also be their main weakness. I remember being at Loftus Road last season when they played Fulham and thinking, “This guy’s taking the piss!” No mater that they’d won the Premiership at this point, you don’t stand there in front of 20,000 people quite patently not giving a monkey’s about the outcome. He’s got the ability to be the best player in the world, but that pretentious attitude leaves him a bit short of what he could be. For the first half-hour of the Tottenham game he was exactly the same as he was a few weeks back at Old Trafford – anonymous. He wasn’t trying to impose himself on the game, which is highly unprofessional and offensive to the fans who live for those derbies and the bragging rights victory in them brings.

Talking of derbies, I think Celtic are going to have a torrid time of things on Saturday at Ibrox. Juninho is nowhere near an adequate replacement for Henrik Larsson, and John Hartson, Chris Sutton and Neil Lennon are all 33, 34 and nearing the end of their careers. Modern day football is all about athletic ability and, I’m sorry, there’s precious little of that at the moment in the Celtic team.

Rangers, on the other hand, have brought in the likes of Dado Prso who can run their socks off for 90 minutes and still be full of puff.

I tell you who it might be bad news for, and that’s Roy Keane. He’s said he’d like to play out his career at Parkhead, but I’m not sure if Martin O’Neill’s going to be keen on a player who A) Is slowing down and B) Is going to want to have a major say in the dressing-room! Even if Roy takes a 50% cut in the wages Man U are paying him, he’s still going to be on fifty grand a week which is more than any of the Celtic players are getting.

Having beaten them last week in the CIS Cup, Rangers will have the smell of victory in their nostrils. I played in some pretty charged Marseilles v Paris St. Germain games, but they were kid’s stuff compared to being in the tunnel at Parkhead or Ibrox and not being able to hear each other talk because it’s so loud. Then you get out on the pitch and the sectarian chanting from both sides starts – it goes way, way beyond other derbies except perhaps Barcelona and Real Madrid which is also on this weekend. Ronaldo and Ziddane may have spluttered into life last weekend, but with home advantage and Ronaldinho in such wonderful form I’m expecting Barça to do them. I’m also going to make myself highly unpopular with my old club and tip Rangers to beat Celtic 2-1 and then go on to win the SPL. Even if they don’t, Martin O’Neill’s got some serious rebuilding to do!

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