Jose Mourinho was not a popular figure at Manchester United - but it was lack of results that ultimately led to sack
Portuguese manager departs after two and a half years amid an increasingly toxic environment
Jose Mourinho was sacked before training at Manchester United’s Carrington Training Centre on Tuesday morning. Ed Woodward, the club’s leading executive, did it face to face in his office.
United and Woodward had been criticised for the way that previous managers, David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, found out they were losing their job through the media.
Woodward made the decision after consulting with fellow directors and the Glazer family who own the club. United felt that they had to act amid an increasingly toxic environment following the club’s worst start to the season in 28 years.
Players and staff were unhappy, and the manager was not a popular person around the training ground. Right from the start of his reign at the club, he complained that things were not being done properly for a club of United’s stature. Maybe he had a point, but, like any football manager, he was always going to be judged by results.
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This year has been horrendous for United, yet it started with Mourinho being awarded a new contract extension. Mourinho’s contract will cost £14 million (Dh65m) to pay up. The club were going to wait and see if he failed to make the next season’s Uefa Champions League, but decided they had to act now.
At the time he was awarded a new contract, United were second in the league and playing some good football. European elimination after two nightmare performances against Sevilla and a terrible end to last season saw Mourinho’s stock slide.
There were frequent arguments with players and staff. Before a terrible game at Brighton & Hove Albion in May he told his team that he had no interest in being friends with any of them and that he was sick of them letting him down.
Before the recent game at Southampton he told Paul Pogba that he had a corrosive effect on the dressing room. The French midfielder has been dropped for recent matches and despite his manager leaving, and Pogba celebrating it on social media, his future at the club is far from certain.
The pre-season was a write-off, with Mourinho miserable every day on the US tour. That set the wrong tone for everyone – including the fans. Mourinho wanted another central defender, but the club felt that he had pushed for one too late for them to act.
The season proper has been no better. Following Sunday’s defeat at Liverpool, United sit 19 points behind the league leaders and their greatest rivals after only 17 games. They were knocked out of the League Cup at home to second tier Derby County.
Mourinho wanted to be judged after three years at the club and was rewarded with patience from both his employers and fans that he would arguably never have received at another major European club.
He was a success in his first season, his second term was acceptable until the halfway point and even until last month in Turin, United fans were singing his name in support. But even die-hard Mourinho fans have found their support waning in the last month. A 0-0 draw to Crystal Palace was the last straw for many, the defeat in Valencia last week did it for others. Few of the 3,000 travelling fans heading to Anfield on Sunday thought United could win.
In the end the board have only given Mourinho two and a half years. But they would argue that they have backed him to the tune of almost £400m and 11 players, and that there has been a regression rather than an improvement. United have a negative goal difference in the Premier League.
United will appoint a caretaker manager in the next day or two. It will be someone who understands the culture at the club, someone who is being asked to bring unity and put a smile back on the face of players and fans.
There has been an increase in empty seats at matches as fans tire of watching a team who don’t score enough goals and concede too many. United also feel that Mourinho has not brought on talented youngsters including Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford – another player who was deeply unhappy with his manager.
The style of football was causing concern, too. Liverpool and Manchester City are light years ahead of England’s biggest club this season.
United will make a permanent appointment in the close season, someone who will work with a director of football who will shape the future of the club.
Mourinho was against such a director being brought in because it wasn’t the gig he signed up to. They will use the time to search for the right person. The club like Tottenham Hotspur’s Mauricio Pochettino and believe he likes the idea of a move to Old Trafford – but not mid-season.
In the meantime, United’s players, who should also take some of the blame for failing badly so far this season, are preparing for Saturday’s trip to relegation battlers Cardiff City.
It’s a measure of how far United have fallen this season that United are closer in points to Cardiff than they are to the top of the league.
Updated: December 18, 2018 11:15 PM