José Mourinho looked unimpressed. He had been handed a copy of Matt Busby’s 1973 autobiography, Soccer at the Top, with the last page open. There Busby had summarised a lifetime in professional football in surprisingly emotional language.

Busby had known hardship – Manchester United’s offices were in a company near Old Trafford called Cornbrook Cold Storage when he arrived as manager after the war. He, of course, also knew tragedy.

But – without being too hippy daydream about it – Busby also knew love. As he says, a lesson football had taught him was to “respond to warmth with warmth” and “in management, be not remote, but give respect and, even more important, give affection if you expect to receive it.

“Without affection we might win something today, but in the end will have gained nothing.”

It sounds like a sermon and those crossed by Busby down the years will have bristled. But a valid point about warmth and encouragement had been made by a master of his trade. At the very least, it is worth due consideration.

On reading it, Mourinho’s lip did not exactly curl, but nor did he smile at a truth recognised.

This was three years ago, just as his second coming at Chelsea was about to turn into his second going. No one knew then that Mourinho would be a successor to Busby. That was a coincidence. But the topic of warmth, that was not.

It was raised because for all the gold and the glory, the 52-year-old Portuguese seemed strangely unfulfilled. He looked cold.

Maybe grumpiness was part of his managerial act – he wouldn’t be the first – but beneath the surface, there also appeared to be a seam of dissatisfaction. Why was this? Why had the warmth he inspired in the likes of Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba in his first calling at Stamford Bridge given way to allegations of betrayal in the second? What had changed in Mourinho?

His answer was that the game had changed, not him.

“I belong to the tribe in the Desmond Morris concept of the tribe of football,” Mourinho said, “but in the modern concept of the tribe of football, I don’t belong.


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