JOSE MOUR­INHO

Soccer 360 - - Inside -

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

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