By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
These are trying times for Jose Mourinho. The Real Madrid coach brought back La Liga to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2011-12, but three games into the current campaign, he has found his credit is already running out fast.
Shortly before the start of the season, the Portuguese boasted about his record of titles claimed in Europe's three largest leagues: Spain, England and Italy. "In England they called me the 'Special One', he said. "But after winning the English, Italian and Spanish championships, they should call me the 'Only One' ..."
Defeats to Barcelona and Getafe have followed, and as Madrid prepare to face the Catalans again on Wednesday, in the second leg of the Spanish Supercopa, the situation is somewhat critical.
Mourinho's men are already five points adrift of Barca in La Liga and remain alive in the Supercopa thanks largely to Victor Valdes' monumental mistake in the closing stages at Camp Nou, which allowed Angel Di Maria to reduce the deficit to 3-2.
That means the 49-year-old is still in with a real chance of winning the only trophy he has yet to claim in Spain, but in order to achieve that, Mourinho must manage to do something he has never been able - he needs to beat Barcelona at the Bernabeu.
Of the five Clasico clashes he has disputed in the capital, Mourinho has drawn two and lost three. The last of those was a damaging defeat to the Catalans in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals back in January when Ricardo Carvalho and Hamit Altintop, the former returning from a long spell on the sidelines and the latter used sparingly in previous months, made surprise starts at the Bernabeu. But the plan failed to work and after taking the lead through Cristiano Ronaldo early on, Madrid were picked apart by goals from Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal. In the end, the 2-1 scoreline flattered them and the home fans had lost their patience: the cheers were replaced by jeers. And they were aimed at the coach.
A 4-1 weekend win over Athletic Bilbao made things slightly better and a creditable 2-2 draw at Camp Nou restored some credibility for the Portuguese a week after the first defeat. Mourinho subsequently sealed La Liga by beating Barca at Camp Nou in April and all seemed well, but some sectors of the Madrid support remain far from enamoured with the former Chelsea and Inter coach.
Late last week, American actor Viggo Mortensen took a swipe at the 49-year-old. "I am a Real Madrid fan," he told a radio station in Argentina. "But I hate Mourinho. I can't stand his cowardly approach."
Mourinho may not care what Mortensen thinks, but he would perhaps be disturbed to learn that many Madrid fans share the views of the American actor. They are a club accustomed not only to winning, but to winning in a certain way. Barcelona's recent dominance has therefore been hard to swallow for Madridistas - and Mourinho's pragmatic gameplan hardly helps.
While the majority still back their boss, some sections of the Madrid support have never taken to Mourinho, due to his counterattacking philosophy and a series of off-the-field incidents which have seen the club's 'gentlemanly' reputation erode over the last two years. At Getafe on Sunday, a few fans even told television cameras that the time has come for the Portuguese to leave the Santiago Bernabeu.
Success and a trophy on Wednesday will quickly change all that, of course, but another disappointing defeat at home to Barcelona - even at this early stage - will only make things worse.
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