Celebrations should ring out across the red half of Manchester following the news that Jose Mourinho has been sacked by Manchester United. The Red Devils consistently underachieved under Mourinho during his two-and-a-half seasons with the team, but they’ve been especially poor to start this season. The end of the Mourinho era was punctuated by an embarrassing 3-1 loss to Liverpool on Sunday.
Manchester United announced Mourinho’s departure on Tuesday morning.
Manchester United has announced that Jose Mourinho has left the Club.— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 18, 2018
We would like to thank him for his work during his time at Manchester United and wish him success in the future. #MUFC
The club has yet to say who will take over the manager’s chair on an interim basis. United’s next match is on Saturday, away to Cardiff City.
What happened when Manchester United played Liverpool on Sunday?
Liverpool might have won 3-1, but that score seriously flatters Manchester United. Jürgen Klopp’s side rattled off 36 shots, the most in the Premier League this season. United had just six attempts on goal, two shots on target, and their goal came as the result of an error by Liverpool goalkeeper Allison Becker.
That result left United sixth in the Premier League, but a hefty 11 points off the top four. They’ve conceded more goals in this season’s 17 Premier League games than they did in all 38 last campaign. United has an even goal differential, which is level with Wolves, West Ham, and Leicester, as well as two goals behind Everton.
A fluke 2-1 win over Juventus in Champions League is probably the only thing that kept Mourinho around this long. United weren’t great in Europe besides that result — they lost the return fixture to Juve, and only took one point off Valencia.
Third season syndrome strikes Jose Mourinho again
For the fourth time in his career, Jose Mourinho has seen his team and job security fall apart in the third season of his reign. He never got the chance at Inter Milan — Real Madrid poached him away before it could happen — but it’s now happened in four of his last five jobs.
During his first reign at Chelsea, Mourinho’s relationship with owner Roman Abramovich soured over the Blues boss handing more power over transfer policy to director of football Frank Arnesen and chief scout Piet De Visser. If you want to read more about how things fell apart during Mourinho’s time at Madrid and his second Chelsea stint, Sid Lowe and Dominic Fifield have a great piece on just that.
It’s almost unfair to lump this Mourinho sacking in with the other three, though. At Madrid and during both Chelsea stints, Mourinho achieved great things before eventually losing the dressing room, his owner, or both. At United, Jose never really got going at all. He leaves without having won the Premier League, Champions League or FA Cup.
Mourinho’s reign defined by feud with Paul Pogba
Last season, United’s record signing and World Cup champion Paul Pogba was dropped on several occasions, curiously for youth product Scott McTominay, who has yet to show he’s good enough to play for United.
Pogba hinted before the season started that he was unhappy with Mourinho, and he sounded very open to the possibility of a transfer.
In September, Sky Sports filmed a training argument between Pogba and Mourinho. In the same week, Pogba was stripped of the vice-captaincy and told that he would never wear the armband again while Mourinho was United manager. Not long afterwards, Pogba publicly criticized Mourinho’s tactics, then was banned from speaking to journalists.
Pogba was dropped once again on Sunday for the Liverpool match, with Mourinho saying that United are better off the ball without him in the team. Man United, notably, did absolutely nothing off the ball without Pogba in the team.
Jose’s a big problem, but Ed Woodward is a bigger one
While there’s no doubt Jose Mourinho should have gotten more out of the players he had at his disposal, he’s been done no favors by a poor transfer policy, overseen by a man who does not have much experience in the game. Manchester United CEO Ed Woodward achieved that position by growing the Red Devils’ commercial business, but his background is in accounting. He’s never worked as a scout, data analyst or coach. Despite this, he’s opted to handle transfer business himself, without hiring a director of football.
Sir Alex Ferguson once run every aspect of United’s football-side operations, and United hasn’t figured out their transfer policy since his retirement. Every summer has been incompetently handled for a decade at Old Trafford, but this summer was perhaps the worst of all.
Woodward was reportedly willing to spend money on a world class defender, but he couldn’t make a deal for any of the half-dozen players on Mourinho’s list. That failure is what opened up a massive rift between Mourinho and Woodward that appeared irreparable from the start of the season. The one big signing that Woodward brought in — Brazilian midfielder Fred, from Shakhtar Donetsk — looked out of his depth in early appearances and has not started since November 3.
There hasn’t been much in the way of “MOURINHO OUT” banners flying from planes circling Old Trafford this season, but there have been plenty of anti-Woodward ones. Mourinho used up all of the goodwill he had left with his poor tactics this season, but most fans still lay the blame for United’s problems at the feet of their CEO.
Who will be the next Manchester United manager?
Well, the next manager looks likely to be an external caretaker, who will take the reins for half a season. For maximum hilarity, it would be wonderful to see Arsene Wenger get the job. Guus Hiddink, Laurent Blanc and Leonardo Jardim are among the unemployed managers that are more likely to be interested in that gig.
After that? It’s not obvious.
The bookies’ favorite is former Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane, who won three Champions League titles with the club he starred for as a player. Zidane has only managed one team, though, and would probably prefer for his next job to be at a club with a proper scouting and director of football setup.
Former Juventus and Chelsea boss Antonio Conte should get some consideration, and like Zidane, he’s available now. But reports that United will look to a caretaker before looking to hire their next permanent manager in the summer suggest that Zidane and Conte are not on the top of Woodward’s list. United is probably targeting someone that already has a job.
Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino is the most likely candidate, but it wouldn’t be surprising if United gave serious consideration to Juventus boss Max Allegri and Atlético Madrid manager Diego Simeone. Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe is also a popular pick from those keen to see English managers get a chance at bigger jobs.
But all of those managers will have reservations about joining United as it stands, no matter how good the money is. The club has been consistently incompetent since Ferguson’s retirement, and there’s no indication that they’ve learned from their mistakes. Woodward has some other problems to solve before he starts pitching someone like Pochettino or Simeone on the gig.