The Mourinho Mess: How long can the Portuguese last in the United hotseat?
The gurning may require a little work but the creases and contortions are certainly real for the Portuguese manager. For Mourinho, it has been a tumultuous few days if not weeks. A humbling and humiliating turnover against Brighton at the Amex stadium has certainly got the tongues wagging and fingers gesturing.
Defeats or victories have opposite effects on fortunes. A win can often paper over deep cracks and foibles, whereas, a loss can bring clouds of gloom and suspicion over the most faithful and loyal supporters. With a miasmatic uncertainty over the future of the manager Jose Mourinho, Manchester United have become a crucible for rumour-mongering and public bashing.
Media trials and public pitchforks
Lampooned in the recently released Manchester City documentary, Mourinho was writhing even before the Brighton shocker. After what was a welcome, though an unconvincing victory against Leicester, the United faithful were expecting a rather different week.
Honestly, the rot started as soon as Pogba came out for his post-match interview and refused to keep the in-house troubles indoors. Talking cryptically he certainly showed how not to behave like the captain of the ship.
In the season opener, he scored a penalty and did nothing more than that. Frankly he was atrocious in the first half against the foxes and only slightly better in the second. But the interview sparked a week-long rumour mill about his transfer to Barcelona.
Later in the week, Mourinho rifled in with his select comments regarding City. Using his own definition of class consciousness, he certainly showed signs of distraction and grumble. The Brighton test soon gave us answers regarding the atmosphere inside the dressing room.
Sports Journalists and clever sophists had a field day with ample literature on United’s woes and soon a defeat mixed with myriad problems made United a laughing stock. Former darlings of Old Trafford like Paul Schools, Paul Ince, Gary Neville, Peter Schmeichel, etc. have all raised swords of irony at the current Jose mess.
Even Pogba's agent Mino Raiola has had his two tweets of fame moment. Wayne and Paul Stretford pair might seem angelic at the moment. A lot of it is knee-jerk with a side of over-reaction but the writing seems to be on the wall for another manager at the helm post-Fergie.
As if surrendering before the battle horn is blown, Mourinho has been quick with complaints and quicker with excuses in his spell at United. That may be digestible as long as the on-field performances warrant few tantrums and strop-throwing.
However, the defeat at Brighton revealed what was already presaged. A heartless and gutless display was appended with another confounding and eerily cosmetic interview. Mourinho is looking more like a man under the guillotine than atop the throne.
After Brighton, he may be vindicated in his summer pursuit for central defenders. However, the £400 million he has already squandered on recruits makes it arduous to advocate his case. Especially after the comical parody of Bambi on Ice enacted by Lindelof and Bailly on Sunday, both being Mourinho’s signings.
Unfortunately for Jose, the Guardiola tale at the Etihad and the Klopp plan at Anfield have left little patience for insipid, cadaverous and post-apocalyptic shambles on the pitch. A Monday night encounter with the traditional bunnies in Tottenham may bring some respite if United can get a win. However, Harry Kane (with first ever August-goal under his belt) and company may turn the cream even more sour for Mourinho come matutinal Tuesday.
Sceptical Boardroom, disaffected dressing room and uninspired fandom
Reports have emerged that the United board and Ed Woodward (CEO, Manchester United) overruled Jose’s transfer requests, casting a shadow over his relationship with the men in the upper echelons at the club. Even Woodward's fun may be over after another catastrophic transfer window.
There have been numerous opinions indicating that a certain Frenchman’s sudden interest in the job may be more fire than smoke. The whispers of Zinedine Zidane being lined up as the successor will only tighten the screws for Mourinho. The scrutiny over the manager’s every word and movement is akin to surveillance at the Pentagon.
It is said the rot starts at the very top and it fits the United scenario like a hand in glove. Not interested in winning titles and going that extra mile, Glazers seem content with the top 4. Refinancing the debt that they had accrued during their takeover of United can be adequately realized with the peripheral profits from sponsorship, merchandise sale, off-field business etc.
This is worrying for Mourinho as well as the fans who have never taken to the American owners. Pogba comments and the horror show against Brighton also reek of a dressing room rebellion or at least unrest.
Fans have largely been behind the manager (they stuck with David Moyes for 10 months) but we all know how fickle they can be. Victories can keep them quiet but it’s the United way of obliterating opponents with attacking football and never say die daredevilry that can truly win them over. With Mourinho, that ship has long sailed.
Alas with a disaffected board, disenchanted dressing room and disgruntled fans, Mourinho’s may very well have overstayed his welcome.
The final nail and the coffin
Football is not just a game. It is a multi-billion dollar industry which has its own market logic and set of governing principles. Success breeds recognition which can buy loyalty in our cynical world. United has probably been the best at that, with a legion of glory hunters who were caught in the perfect Fergie storm.
With unchallenged success and buccaneering brand of football United made the most of the new television era. Barcelona did the same when internet hit the global fancy. Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester City have followed suit. Look at the Juventus project, with their newest and shiniest toy in Ronaldo. Money can buy success and the success can then bring in more money.
History, romance and tragedy have built United into a behemoth and beautiful lore, but the United product needs to deliver on the pitch. The market of footballing loyalties is uncompromising even though sentiment can be and is monetized to a large degree.
If the results on the pitch keep failing to sate the unrealistic expectations at Old Trafford we may see another managerial sacrifice to the devil of Manchester.
Maybe it is time to find the fat lady and just end the debacle or maybe there is still space for an overhaul. A Mou-dini miracle! The question remains though, come this fall, who will command the reins at the theatre of dreams?