Mourinho Fired From Manchester United As Premier League Heavyweights Struggle (#GotBitcoin?)
Mourinho was appointed to restore United back to the top of the Premier League, but he leaves with his reputation tarnished. Mourinho Fired From Manchester United as Premier League Heavyweights Struggle
Alex Ferguson, the greatest manager Manchester United has ever known, sat in the stands at Liverpool’s Anfield on Sunday wearing a heavy coat, a deep red scarf, and a scowl.
Playing out before him was the final act of Jose Mourinho in charge of his beloved club, an insipid defeat to Liverpool amid United’s worst season in 28 years. It was yet another crushing reminder of how far United has fallen in the five years since Ferguson’s retirement.
At the moment the cameras caught Ferguson, he was shaking his head in disbelief at Mourinho’s version of the team. Less than 48 hours later, Mourinho was dismissed.
In the short term, Mourinho’s Tuesday morning exit brought an end to one of the unhappiest arrangements in English soccer—a manager out of ideas and a club out of patience. But half a decade removed from the Ferguson era, one of the world’s most valuable sports franchises remains stuck in a yearslong funk.
United didn’t immediately name a successor, but in a statement the club said they would appoint a caretaker manager until the end of the season.
Mourinho was hired in 2016 with a mission to restore United to the top of English soccer after the brief, unsuccessful reigns of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal. Both had tried before him, but neither managed to capture the essence of what made Ferguson’s teams so potent.
Instead, a series of debacles in the transfer market and tactical indecision left United a shadow of its former self. Where there had once been free-flowing attacking soccer, fans at Old Trafford were left watching dull, defensively-minded sides that were nowhere near challenging for the league title.
The dissonance for fans was that United’s commercial success continued unabated. They wondered if this was a soccer club piloting a multibillion-dollar branding and content business or if it was the other way round—a global property of the Florida-based Glazer family with a couple dozen employees who wear shorts and cleats at work.
In charge of keeping it all together is the man who hired Mourinho, a former J.P. Morgan banker named Ed Woodward. And it was Woodward on Tuesday, who decided that it was worth paying a reported severance of more than $20 million to be rid of Mourinho rather than extend the misery.
“The regression of the team led by the manager may be the immediate trigger for today’s action, it is also the result of some poor decisions over the last six years,” said Duncan Drasdo, head of the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust. “Three managerial appointments each with different playing styles and the player investments that they triggered.”
The post-Ferguson malaise certainly deepened under Mourinho. There were glimmers of hope, such as winning the Europa League and League Cup in 2017. But those only served as reminders of how dire things had become. Those two trophies, after all, are widely regarded as second-tier.
In the league, meanwhile, there were few signs of long-term progress. In his two full seasons at the club, Mourinho’s United finished sixth and then a distant second to Manchester City. This year, even before reaching the halfway point of the campaign, Mourinho had already conceded that a 4th-place finish was the best the club could hope for. And perhaps that was too hopeful.
Mourinho wasn’t even able to count on his team’s typical defensive solidity to scratch out results. Through 17 league games, United has conceded 29 goals, one more than in all of last season.
Every game brought the same frustrations, playing out on loop. Mourinho would sit on the United bench, ashen-faced and muttering to himself, while United sputtered along like 11 players who had only just met. A team that was somehow worse than the sum of its parts, it had lost all of the swagger that made it so fearsome in the 1990s and 2000s. Then, when things broke against it, Mourinho would trot out the same rotation of excuses: injuries, referees, his players’ motivation, and injuries again.
More worrying for United’s top brass than Mourinho’s weekly performance for the press was his inability to construct a competitive team despite two full years’ worth of expensive transfers.
At a time when rivals Liverpool and Manchester City were putting together historically brilliant campaigns—and playing some of the most thrilling soccer England has ever seen—Mourinho continued to gripe about his squad’s quality despite spending over $400 million of United’s money.
Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez, who commands astronomical wages, has been a flop. Midfielder Nemanja Matic, signed from Chelsea, has been uninspiring. And Mourinho was still struggling to find an effective combination of central defenders at the time of his exit.
Nothing was so puzzling, however, as his falling out with French World Cup-winning midfielder Paul Pogba, signed in 2016 for a then-world record fee of $130 million. The two men held vastly different interpretations of how and where Pogba should play and the relationship only deteriorated from there. What turned out to be United’s final game of the Mourinho era on Sunday began with Pogba on the bench.
“I have lot of good players technically but we don’t have lots of players with that intensity, that physicality,” Mourinho said after the Liverpool defeat. “So when the game has high levels of intensity it is difficult for us.”
That game marked the end of Mourinho’s third stint in England after two trophy-laden spells with Chelsea. But he leaves United in no better shape than when he found it, with his reputation for tactical brilliance and man management tarnished.
Instead, he leaves with only one streak intact: Jose Mourinho has never completed more than three seasons at a club.