The “Special One” is trying to become the “Perfect One” as Jose Mourinho looks to become the Premier League’s best behaved boss.
The Manchester United manager’s touchline histrionics have been well documented over the years, leading the Portuguese to regularly clash with football’s authorities.
But Mourinho is making a focused effort to change tack at a time of refereeing scrutiny, such as Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s anger towards officials after last weekend’s frenetic 2-2 draw with Tottenham.
“I am fully committed to win the award this season of the best-behaved manager on the touchline,” Mourinho said. “I am serious!
“There are so many awards — performance of the week, manager of the month and this and that — they should give one [to] the guy that behaves best on the touchline and it should be the fourth official to vote.
“I’m pretty sure that I would win. I’m serious! I didn’t create one problem to one fourth official on a touchline, apart from my red card at Southampton when I put a foot on the pitch.
“I’m serious, I prepare myself, I’m really happy. I’m not free of losing my temper, my control in one match. I’m not perfect.
“I’m not going from the Bad One to the Perfect One, no way, but I try, I make an effort and I’m happy with the way things are going.”
Mourinho is also largely happy with the state of modern refereeing, despite Klopp’s anger last weekend and Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola’s recent frustrations.
The United boss believes English football traditions are “really beautiful,” even if eyebrows were raised by some of the treatment new boy Alexis Sanchez got during his home debut against Huddersfield.
“Maybe his manager needs to cry a little bit more?” he said ahead of Sunday’s trip to Newcastle. “I don’t know, I always liked English football.
“I feel that English football has some cultural heritage, tradition, and there are some qualities I really like in the game.
“But I have to cry a little bit, I have to try to protect my players because, really, you can see the way Alexis was welcomed!
“Yes, he’s a tough boy, he’s a pure guy. He copes with that, and at Yeovil too in difficult conditions with some bad tackles like against Huddersfield, and the referees have just to… I don’t like the word protect the players because it looks like they have to protect only the top players — and I think on the pitch every player is the same.
“They can’t look at a player and say this guy is very talented so I have to protect him. No, they have to protect them equally.
“They know the rules and if the cards come, the referee will be in control of it.
“What do you want the defenders to do? To let the top players play with freedom? I think it’s the nature of the game that the more you fear the more you target.
“You fear the most-talented players so it’s normal there will be an approach with those players. But for the referees, every player must be treated the same and according to the rules.
“The red card comes, the yellow card comes, the second yellow card comes — we don’t need managers to be speaking about this when it’s an obvious thing that the referees must take care of it, which I think they try to do.”
In the other dugout, Rafa Benitez insists he does not miss the mind games he and Mourinho have played through the years.
The two men have enjoyed a frosty relationship and have repeatedly butted heads during careers which have taken both to Spain and Italy as well as the Premier League.
However, as he awaits Manchester United boss Mourinho’s arrival at St James’ Park on Sunday, Benitez insists all the talk off the pitch is largely irrelevant.
He said: “For you [the media], the mind games are more important. For me, it was preparation of the games. I was not worried about the mind games, I was worried about my team.
“If you say something and the other manager says something and you win the game, the assumption is that you are winning the mind games. No, sometimes your team is better or the other is better and that is it.
“Even making mistakes or losing the mind games, you can win the game. It is like this.”