Is Jose Mourinho's time at Manchester United coming to an end?
As Manchester United lumbered towards the end of a shock defeat against West Bromwich Albion, Jose Mourinho stood alone, stony-faced in the dugout as he presided over yet another disappointing defeat.
Ironically, the previous two United bosses had also lost against West Brom at Old Trafford: David Moyes lost 2-1 and Louis van Gaal also lost 1-0. Interestingly West Brom have won 3 of their last 5 games against United at Old Trafford. In Sir Alex Ferguson's time at the club, he won every single meeting with West Brom at Old Trafford apart from a 2-2 draw in 2010/11.
This defeat felt particularly painful as it came the weekend after the dramatic win against Manchester City, where United won 3-2 after being two goals down.
West Brom presented a different challenge to Manchester City but the players looked complacent. Paul Pogba was his usual frustrating self whilst United reverted back to their usual sterile brand of football which fans have been subjected to so often at Old Trafford this season.
Jose Mourinho has undoubtedly improved United: it's worth remembering that the Reds have beaten all other 19 sides in the Premier League this season, a feat they last achieved in 2010/11. Furthermore, in any other season, the Reds would be challenging for the title. Manchester City have won the league convincingly this season and their superiority has only served to highlight United's biggest weakness- their style of football.
When United appointed Mourinho they knew exactly what they were getting- a brand of defensive, but effective style of football which he used to great effect at Chelsea (in both his spells) and Porto. This pragmatic approach has paid off to some extent as United do have the second best defensive record in the Premier League.
Nevertheless, watching United under Jose Mourinho has often been a painful experience. Despite having so much attacking talent (Sanchez, Lukaku, Rashford, Martial, Lingard etc.), the Reds still play a tedious style of football. The West Brom game today is the latest in a long line of poor performances this season, often against smaller teams. It's hard to imagine a similar brand of football being played under Sir Alex.
To put today's result into perspective, this was only the second time in the Premier League that United had lost a home game against a team starting the day bottom of the league. A lot of United fans will remember the previous occasion- a freak 3-2 defeat against Blackburn in 2011/12. After Rafael and Ji-Sung Park were picked in a makeshift midfield ahead of him Paul Pogba decided to leave United. He has been underwhelming since his return to the club in 2016 and a lot of United fans are probably wishing he'd never come back.
This was only West Brom's 4th win in the league all season, which makes the defeat even more embarrassing. Mourinho's position as the United manager is further weakened by the fact that Liverpool are emerging as a force to be reckoned with.
United could still win the FA Cup, though it's hard to see them beating Spurs in the semi-final next Saturday. Furthermore, they'd probably have to beat Chelsea as well which is unlikely to happen.
It's now 5 years since United last won the league and unless Mourinho wins the title next season, it's hard to see him staying at Old Trafford beyond 2019 (he may even get sacked this summer unless he wins the FA Cup).
If Mourinho does leave, hopefully, the board will appoint a coach who will promote an attacking style of football. United could then start to blow teams away again and entertain the fans instead of sending them to sleep.