The long and winding road for José Mourinho at Manchester United
Monday evening was a true disaster for Manchester United and manager José Mourinho, as Tottenham stormed into Old Trafford and walked out with an emphatic 3-0 victory. This following a loss at Brighton last week has created a toxic atmosphere for the Portuguese tactician.
Pundits and supporters immediately have looked to Mourinho’s past, and found a common thread regarding the third campaign for him at previous stops. Stints with Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea all came to a screeching halt at a similar point, reaching a level of disharmony after the second year that ultimately required the 55-year-old coach to move on.
A master of pragmatism both on and off the pitch, almost everything that Mourinho does and says is deliberate. One of the most successful managers of a generation, he has brought himself to the top of the European summit by having a plan prepared for almost any scenario. With that thought in mind, his post-game presser following the Spurs match was jarring.
A closing rant that featured a reminder of how many Premier League titles he has won compared to his managerial counterparts, there was a sense of vulnerability and desperation that underlined Mourinho’s words. One thing that has become clear is that he and Manchester United may be reaching a breaking point, and that press conference was an example of a fragile relationship.
A common sight with previous clubs that saw Mourinho’s departure in his third year was a lack of patience with the media, and lashing out was nothing unusual.
To be completely fair, it is worth noting that reporters have not been easy on him and his team, but this is not a new concept for the former Chelsea boss. Two separate spells at Stamford Bridge have afforded him plenty of experience with the English press, and the recent outburst, coupled with disappointing results on the pitch, feels like a sign that things are coming to an end.
Problems are found within the line-up as well. The mysterious status of Anthony Martial, the unfulfilled promises of more from Paul Pogba and the erratic play of Phil Jones are all curious recent topics. The Red Devils finished second in the Premier League last term, but at no point did they lose two consecutive league fixtures.
Having said all that, the end should not necessarily be imminent.
The season is far too young for Mourinho and United to part ways, especially with this week’s UEFA Champions League draw on the horizon. Their slate of matches in September should produce a few victories, and the January transfer period could be a good time for reinforcements. The club knew what they were signing up for when they made Mourinho their manager. Although if poor results continue, the board may be forced to act in an immediate fashion.
Considering their form to begin the campaign, Manchester City and Liverpool look to be the class of the Premier League in 2018-19. If Manchester United and José Mourinho want any shot at a top-four finish, wins need to start arriving as soon as possible.