So, the inevitable has happened, Jose Mourinho has gone. The only surprise? That it took so long. No matter what others might say the reality is that Jose, and in turn United, have looked off the pace before the season even started. I have a great amount of respect for Mourinho, but it was never going to work out at United, let me elaborate…
Destined to fail
In my next piece I will talk a bit more about this but Mourinho was up against it before he walked through the doors to United. I wrote a piece when Mourinho was appointed that I completely understood why United hired Mourinho even though I didn’t agree with it. Klopp was starting something special at Liverpool, City had just managed to get Pep and United needed someone to come in and stabilize the club and win trophies. The one thing Mourinho gets you is trophies. He is serial winner with a proven track record.
Unfortunately, when he isn’t getting you trophies, he’s not giving you much else to get excited about. A pragmatic manager that has always set his teams up to be impenetrable rather that a lethal attacking force, you never saw the beautiful game at its finest with him in charge. Despite his protests he is also not one for giving youth a chance to perform, rather turning to buying tried and tested players for large amounts of money who he can entrust to get the job done now, rather than nurturing talent into stars.
A history of never being at a club for longer for 3 year you just had to know this was going to be no different. If you didn’t you were fooling yourself. Forget the board for a second and ask yourself why Jose has never been at a club longer than 3 years. The answer shouldn’t be too hard to come by. Relationships between players and all the different boards have always failed in the end.
Backed by the board, but not?
Was Mourinho backed financially by the board? Well let’s have a look at the amounts spent for the top ten spenders since the 16/17 season:
- Manchester City €602m
- Chelsea €530m
- Manchester United €466m
- Liverpool €430m
- Everton €388m
- Arsenal €338m
- Leicester City €292m
- West Ham United €244m
- Tottenham Hotspur €205m
- Southampton €192m
So third on the list for the most valuable club in the world. So one could argue he never got the backing he needed. I could point out Spurs down in 9th are doing a decent job for what they have spent, but let me draw you to another stat. If we go back since Ferguson has left the top 3 stand like this:
- Manchester City €1b
- Manchester United €894m
- Chelsea €888m
Not too much in it then. Yet City appears to be a million miles ahead which tells you how badly transfers have been managed by United in recent years. So, you could excuse the United board for being reluctant to keep shelling out on players when the team seems to have lost its identity. But at the same time if you don’t have the tools can you perform at the highest level?
It’s also worth noting that Jose prefers his players ready-made, but United have taken up a similar policy to Chelsea to buy young promising players that will have a resale value. So, was Jose really getting the players he was asking for? I would imagine he was getting his second or third choice player for every position he wanted as it suited the boards desire to have a younger more “valuable” squad. Backed. But not backed.
The beginning of the end
Everybody will point to different points in history as to when Jose reign began to crumble but for me it had to be Saturday 14 October 2017. The game came after a two-week international period. If you could remember back before that international break United had played 7 rounds of Premier League football wining 6 and drawing 1, of those 6 wins 4 of them were won with a score line of 4-0. United was outscoring Manchester City coming off a season where they had won the Europa League and League Cup. Liverpool meanwhile were looking hot up top but had concede 11 goals in 7 games.
You knew United had to take the attack to Liverpool’s shaky defense if they wanted to get the win. Instead? Jose set out his team to draw. They defended deep and tried to play on the counter. It was a completely different style of play to what we had seen before the international break. The game would go on to end 0-0 but for me the damage was done. Jose had gone back to his defensive tactics in a team that was built to attack and not to defend. It was the start of going to defensive football that just never quite worked with the personal available.
Getting United to play a defensive style of football just isn’t in their DNA, whatever it may be these days. Jose was always going to fight an uphill battle on that, something Pogba and Valencia ended up challenging him publicly on.
Third season syndrome
I don’t know why they don’t just call it Jose syndrome. From preseason until now we have not stopped hearing excuses and poor arguments from Jose. You would almost think he likes a good payout in the third season.
Moaning about how the World Cup affected preparations to then state that he doesn’t have the depth he needs to compete at the top. It must be hard for the players to gear themselves up the whole time when your manager is always asking questions of your ability and desire. It might work for one or two games but after weeks and then months it takes its toll and you have seen it with the glum faces of the players.
Contrast this to United’s biggest rivals in City and Liverpool who are all playing exciting football with a smile on their faces. Not hard to wonder why relationships with Mourinho have become strained. Sarri and Emry joining the Premier League in spectacular fashion this season ensured there was extra ammunition to shoot at Jose’s defensive tactics and raised questions whether he really could get the best out of his players.
Comeback wins over Bournemouth, Newcastle and Juventus were paper over the cracks to hide just how bad United have been this season. Changing formations, personal and styles week on week there, it was clear there was no plan in place. The players have reflected the managers mood and it hasn’t been great to say the least. Mourinho needed more from his players and he just couldn’t get it. There was only one way this was going to end.
The costs involved
At the end of the day it just wasn’t meant to be. The board needs to take a good long hard look at themselves and a director of football is no longer a recommendation but a must. Manchester United have lost their identity and need someone getting them moving in one direction regardless of who is the manager.
The fact that the United board saw fit to extend Mourinho’s contract is quite frankly mind blowing. Knowing that third season syndrome was a real possibility to then extend Jose contract was a terrible decision. One that is going to cost the club up to £22.5m. Then you have to look at the players that he has brought in, the players he has given contract extensions to as well as players that have been upset enough to refuse extending their contracts. What will it cost to get the new manager they want? The financial costs could go on and on. Instead of spending money building a team capable of being the best in the world, they are spending millions upon millions on their mistakes.
But go beyond the financial costs. Manchester United is no longer taken seriously. No longer do clubs fear the Red Devils. The aura around Old Trafford is diminishing. They are not the attraction they once were. If top players were asked if they would want to join City or United, the blue half under Pep must look more attractive right now, surely Sanchez and Fred must be regretting their decisions right now. Make no mistake that United is still a giant in the football world, but a wounded one right now and everyone knows it.
United is currently living off their history at the moment and building a brand on that coupled with hopes and dreams. Ed Woodward will hope that that bubble doesn’t burst if he is to have any hopes of keeping his job because his football decision making skills have a lot to be desired.
Will the real Manchester United please stand up? Whoever comes in next will have a mammoth task ahead of them and the board, with all their past mistakes, will have to get this one right or end up paying an even higher price once again.