The usually unflappable Jose Mourinho has been looking increasingly flustered of late. Perhaps with good reason, given he is entering his infamously cursed third season at United. At his previous clubs, Jose has often capitulated in his third season, usually following large amounts of success in the seasons prior. Except, he’s not really been that successful at United yet. He still hasn’t won the Premier League with them, despite the club spending just shy of £400m in his time as manager. Could failure to do so this time around spell the end for Mourinho, maybe even before the season is through?
WHERE TO BEGIN?
Pre-season wasn’t ideal for Manchester United. Many of his key players were missing, due to the World Cup, and not only did it impact upon performance in pre-season matches, it meant players didn’t train together. Rather than bemoan this, however, he could have pressed for fringe players to have been given their chance to step up and play a role. He did not.
Instead, he did what Jose does best, and complained about anything and everything. He has been widely criticised for his comments regarding Anthony Martial. After Martial’s decision to leave the club to be with his wife after the birth of his son, and refusal to return to the USA pre-season tour, Mourinho sparked controversy by telling the press “He should be here, and he’s not here”.
Regardless of which side you take in the issue, a new father’s or a frustrated manager who is already missing key players, it is undeniably inappropriate for said manager to be slating a player publicly for such a sensitive issue. It’s hardly conducive to a positive relationship. He’s got form for vocally targeting certain players, too. At Madrid, he publicly lambasted Cristiano Ronaldo, insulted Iker Casillas and fell out with Ramos, Pepe and Marcelo. I’m of the opinion that if he continues with public displays of anger and outbursts, it could be Mourinho who finds himself on the other side of the shouting.
LOSING THE DRESSING ROOM?
Martial isn’t the only player allegedly at odds with Mourinho, either. Paul Pogba is said to be unhappy at the club, after being constantly criticised by Jose. With Pogba being one of the most lucrative and best-sponsored athletes in the world, Jose’s position could be in real trouble if he cannot get the Frenchman back on-side. After United’s game against Leicester, Pogba was asked if he felt happy and comfortable at United.
His response was: “There are things I cannot say, otherwise I will get fined”. Hardly reassuring, given it would have been a prime opportunity to put any rumours of discontent to bed. Some are speculating Pogba’s comments were just a demonstration of the power and influence he holds at the club. Testing the waters. Player power is something any manager should be wary of, not just one who is already being scrutinised for cutting a divisive figure in the dressing room.
If player power spirals out of control, and Mourinho doesn’t get the team back on-side (which also happened at Chelsea and Madrid) he runs the risk of dividing the dressing room beyond repair. Morale will drop, results will fall short of expectations, and as has been proven in the past, the only way Mourinho knows to deal with that happening is to keep throwing players under the bus. He did that before pre-season was over, when he said: “If I was them [the fans], I wouldn’t come. I wouldn’t spend my money to see these teams”. Hardly the vote of confidence.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
With the news that, for the first time in the club’s history, United will be appointing a Director of Football, it is too soon to say what the outcome will be for Jose. It’s no secret Mourinho is unhappy with the transfer policy in place, after most of his transfer targets were ignored. So, it is hoped the new position will help to smooth over any discontent, as well as help to stabilise the relationship between owners and staff, as managers come and go.
But the decision may just be a catalyst to Jose’s frustration. As we’ve seen before, he likes control over transfers. He already feels his influence is diminishing: his 5 transfer targets entirely dismissed by United’s board upon submission. Will taking yet more authority away from him really end well? It certainly didn’t at Chelsea, the first time around.
Chelsea’s appointment of Avram Grant as Director of Football caused massive tension, and Mourinho refused to work with him. With Edwin van der Sar being primed for the new role, could it lead to even more anger? The Dutchman, widely considered a United club legend, has enjoyed a favourable working relationship with the club in the past, and so Ed Woodward may side with him instead of Mourinho, should any disputes occur.
Regardless, with Jose in charge, United’s season will be unpredictable. Personally, I think he’ll be gone before Christmas. He may even attempt the kind of power-play against the board, which didn’t work out too well at Chelsea – arrogantly daring Abramovich to sack him – which, in turn, he did. Manchester United have cultivated a polished, PR-friendly and largely positive image over the decades – I’m not convinced that Woodward and the rest of the board will take kindly to Mourinho tarnishing it.
Given the money spent, without any real results to shout about, the powers that be will want a manager who will get his head down. While it may cost Man United £12m to sack Jose, it might just be a price they’re willing to pay, to avoid dealing with his infantile escapades when things begin to unravel.
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