Jose Mourinho, Inter Milan's Special One, Faces Dates with Destiny

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Jose Mourinho, Inter Milan's Special One, Faces Dates with Destiny
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Remember Jack Nicholson in all his crazy-eyed, wild-haired glory in some of his most demented and eccentric roles? He could shock, charm and antagonise in almost equal measure.

That is who Jose Mourinho has looked like recently.

His performances from the grandstands of Serie A since being banned from the dugout have certainly been Oscar-nomination material. Unfortunately, his theatrical efforts have produced only B-movie quality from his players.

The result has been to put a league title in jeopardy which seemed to be comfortably in their control. It has also raised the pressure on the Nerazzurri to progress in Europe to an almost unbearable level. To put it crudely, the Special One needs a result more than ever before.

To fail to conquer Serie A would be criminal.

Inter Milan have greater resources than all their rivals put together. They have got recent league-winning form which puts everyone else to shame. And they have had a wide, wide points advantage for some time.

No offence to Milan, but we witnessed at Old Trafford and in the two clashes with Inter Milan in the league just how far short of top quality they are. If they were to somehow nip in and pinch the Scudetto it would speak more about their cousin's failures than their own success.

However, Mourinho's men are stringing together some pitiful results.

No doubt he has a bucketful of excuses but after a run of drab draws they reached new depths by plunging to defeat at Catania. Their attention may have been on Stamford Bridge but in the process they threw Milan and Roma an unexpected title lifeline.

It only serves to increase the pressure on Inter this week. If they limp meekly out of Europe again it will be a damning criticism of Mourinho's time at the San Siro.

He inherited a team which enjoyed domestic success already and was given the remit to deliver European triumphs. He has failed once in that mission and Massimo Moratti is unlikely to forgive a second slip-up.

The omens don't look good.

Inter's form in the league has been worse than mediocre and they rode their luck in the first leg against Chelsea. The main encouragement was that despite being under pressure for long spells, they managed to come away with a result. They will need to display that clinical approach once again this week.

Otherwise, they could be humbled in England just like Milan were last week.

That would surely deliver the final judgement on Jose's time in Italy. While his antics proved endearing to some people at the start of his Serie A adventure, they are now wearing thin.

It is fine for a coach to put himself in the spotlight to try to protect his players. However, it puts an onus on you to deliver results. The moment that stops happening, you start to look like a fraud.

Italy has seen this all before, don't forget. The original "mago" (wizard) Helenio Herrera used a mix of painstaking preparation, psychology and tactics to deliver league titles, European and global honours at Inter in the 1960s. He is revered to this day.

If Mourinho wants to be mentioned in the same breath he needs to turn things around soon.

He must take the Milanese club into the quarter-final draw of the Champions League and then quickly address their miserable Serie A results. Elimination by Chelsea and failure to defend the Scudetto would be disastrous for a club which has ruled Italy with a swagger for the last four years.

It would also be a heavy blow to their coach's reputation.

He delivered unprecedented success at Porto and a long-awaited league title to Chelsea to earn his "special" crown in the first place.

But it would surely be time to strip him of that title if he managed to take Inter out of Europe once again and relinquish the domestic dominance they have enjoyed for what feels like an eternity.

If that is as good as it gets, Jose, this may be as far as you are entitled to go.

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