By Andrew Warshaw
December 18 – He was hired on reputation to restore past glories at the club he always wanted to join. But once again, Jose Mourinho, the self-styled Special One, has found himself on the managerial scrapheap after being ignominiously sacked by Manchester United following the club’s worst start to a Premier league campaign for 28 years.
English football and the game at large reacted with a mixture of surprise and inevitability after Mourinho, whose self-belief verging on arrogance could not hide the fact that he fell out with players, fans and United’s board, left Old Trafford with immediate effect to be replaced by an as yet unnamed caretaker manager until the end of the season.
Despite hundreds of millions of pounds being spent on proven stellar names – not just the first team but throughout the squad – United have under-performed disastrously this season and are currently 19 points behind league leaders Liverpool as well as 11 off the top four.
With the vast majority of players performing way below their best, not least French midfielder Paul Pogba – bought for a then record fee of £89 million in 2016 – Mourinho was increasingly on borrowed time as, week after week, critics poured scorn on United’s dour style of football and the manager’s inability to galvanise his star-studded squad or develop a system of play that worked. Sunday’s 3-1 defeat against arch-rivals Liverpool was clearly the final straw for Mourinho after two and half years in charge having taken over from Louis van Gaal in May 2016.
Although Mourinho won the League Cup and Europa League, United, currently sixth in the Premier League, never came close to the big prizes under his tenure. Despite reaching the Champions League last 16, where United will play Paris St-Germain, they have won just one of their past six games in the Premier League.
“A caretaker-manager will be appointed until the end of the season while the club conducts a thorough recruitment process for a new, full-time manager,” United said in a statement with an appointment likely within 48 hours. Tottenham Hotspur’s highly regarded Mauricio Pochettino and the currently available former Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane are two of the names on everyone’s lips
Manchester United’s owners pride themselves on their club being the biggest brand in world football, with millions of followers worldwide. But their current haul of 26 points after their first 17 Premier League games is their worst tally in the top flight at this stage since 1990-91.
Mourinho has frequently bemoaned the failure to sign a world-class central defender but the fact is United have no fewer than six centrebacks on their books including Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly. Both were Mourinho signings, as were the likes of Pogba and strikers Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku.
The fact is that despite all his whingeing, United have spent almost £400 milllion on new players since his arrival. Most other clubs can only dream of spending this kind of money but under Mourinho and his tendency to blame everyone but himself when things go wrong, the star signings just didn’t click. It didn’t help either that since joining the club Mourinho has reportedly been staying in a London hotel which hardly ingratiated himself to the United fans.
His dismissal continues his run of never completing four consecutive seasons in charge of a single club which is telling in itself. The bottom line, perhaps, is that after so much success at so many clubs around Europe – in particular his first spell at Chelsea when he first used the Special One tag about himself – the 55-year-old Portuguese has simply lost his lustre and been unable to achieve the same standards as he used to.
Where he will next end up is anyone’s guess while United, ever distant from the force they were in the golden years under Sir Alex Ferguson, cannot afford to slip up again with whoever they appoint.
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