As a fan of one of Jose Mourinho’s former clubs, last night I happened to come across a video of him on social media from about a decade ago celebrating a last minute victory. And despite taking into account the obvious effect that father time has on all of us, it was startling to see the toll football management has taken on the man. To the untouchable ‘special one’ who revolutionised football management in the UK to someone who will be no doubt be the victim of endless internet memes and deep pessimism about where their career goes form here for the foreseeable future. It’s a turnaround of fortunes that didn’t seem possible, even after a lukewarm first two seasons at his latest posting at Old Trafford.
Yet here he is, sacked from a premiership club for the third time in his career and worse still once again its happened in the third season of his reign. You’d think he must hate the number three and all it stands for by now, yet he has also won the premiership title three times (which of course he often passionately reminded the media about during his time as United boss). So it must be a confusing feeling for someone who has achieved so much (his record at Inter Milan manager is particularly outrageous) only now to be brutally cast aside as the Peps, Pochs and Klopps of the world surge beyond the masterclass of football management that he instilled.
His latest departure is different from his last at Chelsea almost exactly three years ago (Jose’s festive severance package should once again just about cover the Christmas pressie costs) in that rather than the shockingly swift and severe decline that occurred at his second stint at Stamford Bridge, his fall as United boss has been more gradual in nature. His first season heralded two trophies, one being a famous Europa League triumph that backdoor-ed his side into the Champions League after a sixth place league finish. His second season was somewhat of a strange one, as in reality a second place finish in the league behind an unfathomably brilliant Man City was a relative success. Yet an premature exit from that hard earned Champions League campaign to Sevilla and a painful FA Cup final defeat left a sour taste in United fans’ mouths as they saw their neighbours playing the kind of expansive football that United were so famous for under one Sir Alex.
Yet the real trouble seemingly began off the pitch in the summer just gone, when Mourinho was apparently rebuffed by the clubs’s hierarchy when requesting that the club make offers for central defenders (such as World Cup hero Harry Maguire and Spurs defender Toby Alderweireld). Having signed a contract extension just half a year earlier, this no doubt incensed Mourinho and since then he has been on a crash course with those above him at the club. For a time, in basically every interview and press conference Mourinho not so subtly informed the media that he wasn’t happy with his squad, especially when it came to a defence that was now leaking goals every week. This combined with another far too public spat with Paul Pogba signaled that the club as Gary Neville stated last Sunday ‘was losing control of Jose and didn’t know what to do with him’.
Just as with Chelsea three years previous, it was clear that Jose was losing the support of his key players and this translated to United being nineteen points behind their Manchester rivals with the season not even at the half way stage. A stat that when read out loud is quite difficult to comprehend, even in the wake of Jose’s departure. Still it was quite the shock on Tuesday morning when it was announced that Manchester United had decided to bite the bullet and change management now rather in the summer. This mid season upheaval perhaps indicates how damaged Jose’s relationship with both his players and the board had become, a fact that surely won’t bode well for him as he looks to rebuild his career and reputation as one of the world’s best managers.
Some however may argue that those days are gone and in truth with the three season stigma that is now firmly attached to his name, you do feel that Jose’s best days may well be behind him unless he somehow manages to adapt his abrasive approach to the job at hand, which seems increasingly unlikely as the years roll by. As for the club he has just left behind, taking a stand versus Mourinho in the form of letting him go hands them the opportunity to get the club in order and start things anew. Yet you wonder that with the business orientated approach that many top clubs now adopt whether that’s even an option anymore and fans will be very wary of the fact that problems at the club were rooted much deeper than the manager during Mourinho’s time as boss.
As exciting as names such as Zidane and Pochettino are, the new manager must have a solid and effective infrastructure behind them in order to even think about bridging an ever widening gap and consistently challenging for the top honours once more. The issue of nostalgia also needs to be addressed if the club is get out of the deep rut it currently finds itself in. Alex Ferguson (now thankfully in good health) may still sit in the stands at Old Trafford on match days but the glory days of his reign are long gone and its time for United as a collective to fully accept that if a new era of success is to be initiated. As sacking and buying off an unhappy manager is one thing, creating a fresh identity for a club that values but doesn’t rely on its history is quite another.
If you enjoyed this article or any others on thesixyardring feel free to like/share/RT them or alternatively mention them to friends as you discuss #WengerIn