JOSE MOURINHO WAS SACKED BY MANCHESTER UNITED A WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS AFTER MONTHS OF UNREST. ANDREW TUFT LOOKS AT WHY THE OLD TRAFFORD HIERARCHY FINALLY MADE A CHANGE.
Shortly before 10am local time, on Tuesday December 18, Manchester United released a statement confirming that Jose Mourinho had been relieved of his duties as manager. It was a short, business-like message — only seven lines long, 65 words ending a tenure that promised much but delivered more rancour than revolution. “Manchester United announces that manager Jose Mourinho has left the club with immediate effect,” the statement began. “The club would like to thank Jose for his work during his time at Manchester United and to wish him success in the future.”
The final passage offered a brief outline for where United go next: “A new caretaker manager will be appointed until the end of the current season, while the club conducts a thorough recruitment process for a new, full-time manager.” With that, Mourinho’s time was up, United giving themselves roughly six months to work out how to catch-up to the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, all clubs they used to look down upon.
The axe fell days after United were beaten by Liverpool. It wasn’t so much the result that did for Mourinho — even Sir Alex Ferguson occasionally lost at Anfield — but the manner of it, the latest in a growing line of listless performances. For an expensivelyassembled team — £360m was spent on transfer fees alone during Mourinho’s twoand-a-half years at the club — results on the pitch started poorly, had a slight uptick, and then plummeted back down.
United ended Mourinho’s first season in charge, 2016-17, in sixth place, but qualified for the Champions League by winning the Europa League. A year later, they were second but distantly so to Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering City side, the 19-point gap equivalent to a chasm. United were back in sixth at the time Mourinho was sacked, still 19 points off the leaders.
The gap between Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and Mourinho’s United looked significantly greater than 19 points in what proved to be the Portuguese’s final game in charge. Where the Merseyside Reds were vibrant, organised and clinical, the Red Devils were sluggish, disjointed and sloppy.
Mourinho himself inadvertently summed up the difference in his post-match interview. “They play 200 miles per hour with and without the ball. I am still tired just looking at [Andy] Robertson,” he admitted, but stopped short of questioning why his team were incapable of doing similar, and why they were persisting with converted winger Ashley Young at left-back and lacked Robertsons of their own across the pitch. Perhaps in the January transfer window and beyond, Mourinho would have finally addressed issues in defence, midfield and attack, but perhaps it would have been throwing good money after bad. Mourinho’s habit of lambasting players that he signed as not good enough won’t have helped convince the United board to back him, either.
Yet, the Glazer family and Executive VICECHAIRMAN Ed Woodward shouldn’t escape criticism for the club falling so far behind its competitors. But they have spent money — in near-record sums — and only had to show for it a few minor trophies, tepid-atbest performances and a lot of unhappiness among fans and players. In the end, keeping Mourinho simply wasn’t worth the cost.
The axe fell after Man. United lost to liverpool ABOVE:Jose Mourinho’s unhappy Manchester United tenure came to an abrupt end BELOW:A strained relationship with Paul Pogba was just one of the factors behind Mourinho’s departure