José Mourinho’s three season curse has struck again; he’s never completed more than three consecutive seasons at a club, with the list now including Manchester United after being sacked on December 18th.
Woodward’s ‘failure’ to sign players was one Mourinho complained about often
Despite winning the EFL Cup, the Europa League and the Community Shield in his first season, many lows followed. The success of their Manchester neighbours last season resulted in United fans growing increasingly disgruntled with Mourinho, despite finishing second. Nonetheless, in January, the board extended his contract to 2020 with an option of a further year.
This summer, though, the relationship between Mourinho and Ed Woodward, United’s Vice Chairman, began breaking down. José wanted a new centre back – Jerome Boateng, Harry Maguire and Toby Alderweireld were potential targets – but he had to make do with Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, and Eric Bailly. Woodward’s ‘failure’ to sign these players was one Mourinho complained about often, despite spending over £391 million.
Questions must be raised over the sustainability of Mourinho’s management model and style of football
Mourinho’s desire to moan when things weren’t going his way hid deeper issues that led to United’s poor performances this season. His undeniable achievements in football management place him near the top of the list of the greatest managers of our time, but questions must be raised over the sustainability of Mourinho’s management model and style of football.
Management requires understanding the emotions of each player. Some players respond to ‘tough love’, others to an arm around the shoulder. Mourinho is better at the former. ‘Tough love’ seemed to work with Luke Shaw, who said José was right to criticise him publicly after he won United’s player of the month in August and September, and returned to the England squad. However, it’s reported that Shaw and Mourinho fell out again before the sacking, after Shaw withdrew from the 4-1 victory over Fulham due to a back spasm.
Mourinho is not a people person. He appears controlling and egotistical. Former News of the World Sports Editor, Paul McCarthy, said recently: “if you went into his office at Cobham, it was like a shrine to himself.” Perhaps players responded better to this in the past, respecting the tactics and opinions of their managers. However, this has changed. Following a training ground conflict between Mourinho and Paul Pogba, it was the former who got the blame, with people wondering why the manager wasn’t bringing out the best of his world-class midfielder. Pogba sat on the bench for United’s 3-1 loss to Liverpool, Mourinho’s last game in charge.
Mourinho still appears to have many suitors in football
United players appeared immediately happier following Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s appointment as caretaker manager, beating Cardiff 5-1 in entertaining fashion. But what’s next for United? If they play fast, free-flowing football and continue to win for the remainder of Solskjær’s season, he must be the number one target. It’s important that Woodward gets the next appointment right, with United failing to replace Sir Alex Ferguson since he retired – if he doesn’t, it’s likely he will be sacked himself. Solskjær values the character of the club and, unlike Mourinho, understands how to man-manage the modern footballer. Woodward seems to agree, with reports suggesting that United have a £7 million compensation agreement with his former club Molde , if they choose to appoint Solskær permanently.
The recent spate of victories may prove to be a fluke, though, and it’s important that Woodward begins drawing up his shortlist now. The current favourite is ‘Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino. However, while Manchester United is a bigger club with a rich history, Pochettino is building his own legacy at Tottenham. For this reason, a switch to United may not be one he wants to make – for now, he’s “trying to deliver” his “best job” at ‘Spurs. Alternatively, a manager who appears to have the necessary man-management skills, after taking England to the World Cup semi-finals this year, is Gareth Southgate. He bought the young England players together as a team, which previous England managers had struggled to do, creating a buzz around their training base in Russia. It would be interesting to see whether he could create a similar buzz around United’s team. Whoever Woodward decides to appoint, the pundits will have plenty to discuss in the meantime. Mourinho still appears to have many suitors in football, with Real Madrid reportedly interested in his services, so don’t expect to wait long before we see him managing again.