Pressure on Jose Mourinho and Manchester United to stop the rot against Newcastle United
A victory will not immediately solve the problems at Old Trafford, but another setback against struggling opponents will only increase the pressure
If you think things are bad at Manchester United, who sit nine points behind their arch-rivals Manchester City and Liverpool after only seven league games of the Premier League season, take a look at the fortunes of another giant United, Newcastle.
The fifteenth best-supported football club in the world, with average sell-out crowds of 51,000, have not won a trophy since 1969.
They have not won a game in the league this season, drawing two and losing five.
Manchester United fans rightly complain about the lack of goals, wins and the style of football under Jose Mourinho, yet the Tynesiders have managed only four goals so far.
Fans firmly blame the club’s owner Mike Ashley for their woes. They think he doesn’t invest enough, has long lost interest and have long sided with manager Rafa Benitez.
It’s not as if they have not been in a similar situation before – Newcastle have been relegated twice in the last decade.
A year ago, Newcastle fans were optimistic that their club was going to be taken over, but they have been let down so many times and nothing has materialised.
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Yet still they go, tens of thousands of them, week after week. Legendary Manchester United manager Sir Matt Busby wasn’t a million miles from the truth when he advised his former player Charlie Mitten in 1958 to take the Newcastle top job because “30,000 would turn up to watch the team shirts dry”.
There are higher expectations at Old Trafford, where Newcastle visit on Saturday evening for the final Premier League game before a two-week international break, but these are not being met.
Another defeat for a Manchester United side who have won only one of their five home matches this season in all competitions is unthinkable.
They are expected to bounce back from last Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of West Ham United, as well as to make amends for Tuesday’s disappointing goalless draw against Valencia at Old Trafford in the Uefa Champions League.
The stadium will be full and the fans will get behind their team. They will sing for the beleaguered Jose Mourinho.
In their hearts they still hope that he can turn the club’s fortunes around, even if in their heads they have serious reservations.
Too many players are not performing for their manager, for themselves or for the loyal supporters. Seven games into the 38 game league season and United fans do not expect their team to win the league, making it a sixth year without a title.
It is not close yet to the 26-year wait between 1967 and 1993, nor to Liverpool still waiting for a first title since 1990, but the worry is that United are going backwards, not forwards.
Nobody knows how long Mourinho will remain in his job. You hear statements like “He won’t reach Christmas” at United matches, but they’re based on hunch rather than fact.
United dismissed David Moyes in 2014 after it became mathematically impossible for his side to qualify for the Champions League, one of the key minimum requirements for United’s commercial machine.
The club stood by Louis van Gaal for months after his team went eight games without a win in November and December 2015.
The Dutchman learned of his dismissal minutes after winning the 2016 FA Cup. That was not enough to save his job since he too had failed to get United into the Champions League with a top-four finish.
Fans had long tired of the football under Van Gaal, but he was given every chance to turn fortunes around.
Mourinho’s having his toughest spell since taking charge in June 2016, but the club gave him a contract extension in January – after he was successful in his first year and his team played well up to the halfway point in his second. And, to spin the current negativity around, his side are still only five points off a Champions League place.
Though Mourinho almost sounded like his side had reached their best under him last season when he spoke after the Valencia game.
There was a sense of resignation, but he is determined to fight on. Why should he step down from his job, when he’d receive £15 million (Dh71.5m) in compensation if United were to sack him?
That is still cheaper than replacing a team – the next manager might want to do that as Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho said they needed to.
Mourinho’s men must beat a Newcastle side who defeated them when they last met in February.
Not much will change if they do, but the consequences are beyond thinking about for Manchester United fans if they do not and the negative vibes are allowed to continue festering.
Updated: October 4, 2018 05:40 PM