Is the writing on the wall for José Mourinho at Manchester United?
The events of this past week have caused pain of epic proportions to Man Utd fans all over the world. If the team's weak surrender against Brighton wasn't enough, Paul Pogba's super-agent has been busy taunting the club head on. Of course, one only has to remember that a similar standoff with Sir Alex Ferguson a few years back which led to a youthful Pogba having to move to Juventus on a free transfer.
As a Man Utd fan (full disclosure) the build-up to this season never filled me with immense confidence that we would be launching a full-blown assault on the Premier League crown. Jose Mourinho's antics during pre-season had mirrored his behaviour in the build-up to the 2015-16 season with Chelsea and we all know how that ended. Mourinho lost his dressing room and parted ways with the London club.
The self-proclaimed Special One finds himself in a rather unusual spot - his contemporaries Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino have won a grand total of 0 titles at their respective clubs but are seemingly the darlings of the media. And since the Portuguese manager ended his first season in charge with 2 trophies, in an ideal world, he should, therefore, be able to puff his chest out and walk with pride. He would be able to do this in any club in world football except at Man Utd.
And here's why. Although he steered United to a 2nd place finish (the highest ever finish since the retirement of SAF and with a points tally with which the club would have been crowned champions in most of the previous seasons) his second season was a disaster. All the progress made was undone by the manner in which his team trailed runaway Champions and bitter rivals Man City. Although Mourinho's press conferences are pure gold, his comments particularly after being knocked out by Sevilla in the UCL added to the misery endured by the fans. He said, ''I sit in this chair twice in the Champions League and knock Manchester United out with Porto and Real Madrid so is not something new for the club''. It was a dagger right through the heart of every United fan and this is something they are not used to hearing from their own manager.
Dare I say it, but as a result of the Portuguese manager suddenly finds himself in a situation he knows all too well. This is his 3rd season at the club and it's fair to say he has been throwing the toys out of the pram. He has thrown Ed Woodward under the bus by claiming the club hasn't made the signings he wanted - a top quality centre-back and a winger.
In my opinion, Mourinho's style of play leaves much to be desired and does not have the fans sitting at the edge of their seats. The fans are used to seeing their beloved club attack at will and leave the opposition totally decimated down the years. However, the public outcry and criticism aimed at Mourinho wouldn't be so severe if he released the handbrake and let his attackers express themselves a little more. Coming to his direct rivals, Klopp and Pochettino don't receive the same level of criticism (for the time being) for their lack of trophies because of the way their clubs play. Their fans are filled with optimism that this could finally be their season (Although Liverpool fans have had this feeling for a really long time).
This is my view leaves Mourinho facing an uphill battle, one which he will almost certainly end up losing. Across the town, Pep Guardiola has Man City playing to his tunes and the gap between the clubs has widened significantly under Mourinho's watch. There is a general belief that United's famed youth system (the U23 team were relegated last season) is also behind their cross-town rivals.
Now, Sir Alex would not have let this happen under his watch, but the fact that Man Utd are now after a Director of Football for the first time in their famed history says a lot about their predicament. Now, the club knew very well what they'll get with Mourinho when they signed him (signed a deal with the devil according to popular belief), but they seem to be struggling everywhere - on the pitch and with their scatter-gun transfer policy off it.
The only way Mourinho can come out of the rabbit hole is if he delivers the league title. But, is time on his side to do so? The Man Utd board could soon be faced with a major decision - Will they continue to throw their weight behind Mourinho, who is on the verge of self-explosion and risk falling further behind their direct rivals or do they bite the proverbial bullet and make the change necessary to arrest the slide.