Stephen Hunt

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - STEPHEN HUNT

The clear­est sign that Jose Mour­inho’s ten­ure at Old Traf­ford was never go­ing to last the full five years of his con­tract was in his liv­ing ar­range­ments.

THE clear­est sign that Jose Mour­inho’s ten­ure at Old Traf­ford was never go­ing to last the full five years of his con­tract was in his liv­ing ar­range­ments. If you are try­ing to en­cour­age play­ers to move to a new city and em­brace your club, the sup­port­ers and the re­gion, how can the man­ager of Manch­ester United live in a ho­tel? His kids have grown up and his part­ner could surely have moved north in the last three years. It is to­tally un­ac­cept­able.

Why on earth did the Manch­ester United board give him a con­tract ex­ten­sion? You have to give his agent a lot of credit for per­suad­ing the pow­ers-thatbe to do that. Mour­inho has since done enough to se­cure his pay-off.

By the looks of it, Mour­inho lost the United dress­ing room a while back, but the alarm bells were ring­ing ahead of the de­feat at An­field last week­end. I men­tioned last week that the lack of ur­gency from the play­ers in the Cham­pi­ons League de­feat at Va­len­cia was all too ap­par­ent and way be­low what is ex­pected from a Manch­ester United team. At least un­der David Moyes they had a go. Against Liver­pool, ev­ery Manch­ester United player will have a go be­cause the fans de­mand it. The de­feat at Liver­pool was com­ing and a bet­ter re­sult last Sun­day would have just pro­longed the agony for Mour­inho and United sup­port­ers.

Tottenham man­ager Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino is the cur­rent favourite to take the job at the end of the sea­son, but any­thing could hap­pen be­tween now and then. What hap­pens if Tottenham win the Cham­pi­ons League? Or Real Madrid come call­ing? What hap­pens if Tottenham fin­ish fifth, be­hind Manch­ester United? Or Ole Gun­nar Solk­s­jaer leads United up the Pre­mier League ta­ble and they fin­ish above Spurs, or to Cham­pi­ons League suc­cess?

Po­chet­tino might be fash­ion­able now but there is ab­so­lutely no guar­an­tee he will be in six months.

This is a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity for Solk­s­jaer to put his name in the frame and a chance for him be­tween now and the end of the sea­son to get the job per­ma­nently. I doubt he has gone into the Old Traf­ford hot seat in­tend­ing for this to be a tem­po­rary ap­point­ment. He will want the job full-time and is in a po­si­tion to claim it.

It does raise se­ri­ous ques­tions about United’s re­cruit­ment in Jan­uary and whether they can bring in the cal­i­bre of play­ers they need to get them back into con­tention in the Pre­mier League and Europe.

Solk­s­jaer will soon dis­cover that there are no nat­u­ral de­fend­ers or strong lead­ers in the squad he has in­her­ited. They have de­fend­ers but no lead­ers. If Ash­ley Young is the big­gest leader in your squad, then we all have a chance of play­ing for Manch­ester United. Young is a good, re­li­able player, who started his ca­reer as a winger and has done well as a full-back, but this is Manch­ester United we are talk­ing about.

Solk­s­jaer was a dis­as­ter at Cardiff af­ter com­ing in from Molde in Nor­way with a very good rep­u­ta­tion. Yes, there were dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances in the back­ground, but he was brought in to avoid the drop and they were rel­e­gated from the Pre­mier League un­der his watch. His re­cruit­ment of play­ers was re­ally poor as well.

Now he is man­ager of one of the big­gest clubs in the world. It can’t get any worse for Manch­ester United but if he wins some games quickly and the foot­ball is bet­ter to watch, he will be seen as a good man­ager. He is al­ready at an ad­van­tage with United fans be­cause of the leg­endary sta­tus he en­joys.

The United play­ers can give them­selves a lift now that The Spe­cial One has gone. We are not talk­ing about lim­ited play­ers, but some very tal­ented ones who have clearly been look­ing for a change of di­rec­tion. Any re­lease from the Mour­inho reign will be wel­come.

Which brings us to Paul Pogba. No doubt he has been full of life, en­ergy and smiles, laugh­ing and jok­ing since Mour­inho left. It was clear the re­la­tion­ship was toxic and nei­ther man has come out of the last few months with any credit. But Pogba’s so­cial me­dia post in the wake of the man­ager’s exit was re­ally poor. There is a line and he crossed it.

I am sure it was a re­lief to him to see the man­ager go. I am sure he has spent the last few months whis­per­ing un­der his breath. We have all been there. But you don’t have to show your feel­ings pub­licly. We all know how Pogba feels about Mour­inho. We all know he will be over­joyed at his demise but he re­ally didn’t need to show the world in such a crass and un­pro­fes­sional man­ner.

His re­cruit­ment of play­ers was re­ally poor

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