What’s going wrong at Manchester United? And why is it Jose Mourinho?

Three games into the Premier League Season. 5 Goals scored. 3 points. By no means the perfect start, but had you offered that to a lot of top-flight clubs I am sure they would have taken it. The problem is, this is not most clubs this is Manchester United. If you like them or not, they are one of the biggest clubs in not just European football but world football. They are also managed by Jose Mourinho one of the well-recognised, most successful and without a doubt most volatile managers to ever grace the game. He has bought the trophies he promised, though there is an argument that he has yet to produce a major honour, things seem to be imploding at Old Trafford. Who is to blame? The Players? Jose? Ed Woodward? If you ask us, the blame lies at the door of the manager.

You can’t argue with the history of Jose’s career he won at Porto, he won at Chelsea changing English football while there. Took a crumbling Inter side to the treble, which in our eyes is his crowning achievement. He beat Guardiola at Barcelona. Then came back to Chelsea won again before falling out with the players and leaving just above the relegation zone. The very things that made Mourinho the icon that he is (some may say was) are the reasons that he is now struggling. Let us explain why.

Throughout his career, Jose has burnt his bridges. When he left Chelsea his split from Roman Abramovich was pretty confrontational. The choice to bring in a Director of Football above him coupled with the signing of Andriy Shevchenko clearly irking the irritable Mourinho. He made himself a martyr, some Chelsea fans took years to forgive Roman for getting rid of the special one. Jose left the fans in no doubt that he loved them and if he had his way he would still be there. You have to ask yourself why Roman was so willing to part with a man who had bought him success. True, Jose had not bought the Champions League crown that Roman craved but only one man has and he was a promoted assistant. What people tend to forget is that his Chelsea side was far from swashbuckling. Even then he had a rigid, defensive outlook but gifted creative players the likes of Robben, Duff and Joe Cole in front of a solid back four and Claude Makelele. Some say Paulo Ferreira is still playing at right back from Chelsea today. But in those “Glory days” Jose wasn’t above petulant acts. Winning his second Premier League title, he threw his medal into the crowd, saying that he didn’t need another one. Lamenting not being supported in the transfer market in a league cup tea Mourinho started Wayne Bridge as a left winger and Michael Essien and Paula Ferreira as centre-backs. Something at the time people thought nothing of, but bears a stark resemblance to Ander Herrera playing in a back three.

After the Rosenborg draw, Jose was gone. He took a break before moving to Inter, far from the powerhouse they were in the 90’s and not quite the shambles they were a year or so ago. If there was any league in the world here a Mourinho brand of football would work, sure it has to be Italy. His first season as notable for actually playing academy players. In this case Davide Santon and Mario Balotelli. Domestically Jose’s first season was fantastic walking to the Scudetto, but their Champions League campaign was a shambles. Losing to United in the knockout rounds and losing to Panathinaikos in the group stage as well a draw with Cypriot minnows Famagusta. Feuds with Carlo Ancelotti, Claudio Ranieri and Luciano Spaletti followed, Mourinho quick to point out how the latter two had zero titles. This was coupled with the usual acrimonious relationship with the media that is now the Mourinho standard. The antics that Mourinho had been so famous for while in England were simply not going to fly in Italy and he had immediately made an enemy out of them.

As became the norm Jose’s second season was even better than his first, at least in terms of trophies. Several attacking players left in the summer of 2009 Adriano, Hernan Crespo, Julio Cruz and finally Luis Figo called it a day on his wonderful career. Replacements were bought in Diego Milito, Thiago Motta and Wesley Sneijder and a swap deal bringing in Samuel Eto’o for Zlatan. Whilst managing to fall out with almost everyone again, including Marcelo Lippi who was the manager of the national side, Mourinho was dominating Italian football both on the pitch and in the Gazzettas. The Nerazzurri finished the season with a Treble bringing the League, the Cup and the Champions League back to the San Siro. Within minutes of the final whistle, Mourinho all but quit and the special one’s volatile affair with Italian football had come to an end.

Next stop Real Madrid, the biggest club in the world football. The first problem people expected that Jose would run into was egos, mainly his and that of Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite his previous successes, you could question if Jose had ever really managed a team of stars. Before the first game Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Ricardo Carvalho and Angel Di Maria had been bought into the squad. In no uncertain terms, this was now Mourinho’s team. The first season was a bit of a mixed bag, a few draws with poor finishing complemented but some absolute thrashings of teams. Jose’s first Classico perhaps was the first sign on the cracks that we now see as familiar, a 5-0 loss to Barcelona which the coach hailed as an embarrassment and Florentino Perez called the worst game in the clubs history. More controversy followed, the club was fined after Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos deliberately picked up yellow cards to avoid bans in what would now be seen as vintage Jose shithousery. However, in another vintage Jose move, he did end the campaign with a trophy taking home the Copa Del Rey. It wasn’t all doom and gloom, Jose’s second season bought a La Liga title, and record-breaking 6 wins in the Champions’ League group stage which was followed up by a Semi-Final loss to Bayern Munich denying him a final against Chelsea.

In what would be his final season at Real, the year started with a win in the Spanish Super Cup, which meant Jose had won all of the possible trophies in Spanish football as well as being the first manager to win every domestic title in four European leagues. For the 3rd straight year, Los Blancos made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League this time falling to Borussia Dortmund on away goals. After the game, Jose hinted that he would leave at the end of the season. Something he had done at all of his previous jobs bar, Chelsea. In the interview, he said that many people hated him and many of them were sat in the pressroom, sound familiar? By the end of the season Jose had fallen out with Sergio Ramos, Iker Casillas and Cristiano Ronaldo, the three most influential players in the dressing room, again, sound familiar? To make is position almost untenable. Who could forget, this was the season that a brawl broke out between the staff of Barca and Real in a Classico and Mourinho petulantly poked Tito Villanova in the eye. After losing the Atletico Madrid in the Copa Del Rey, Jose was gone from Madrid and returned “Home”.

Stating he had unfinished business Jose returned to Stamford Bridge. Many at the time believed his preferred preference was Manchester United but Chelsea was where he landed. He started early with the barbs, accusing West Ham of playing 19th Century football and that he would need to bring is Black and Decker to destroy the wall. The Chelsea side the Jose had inherited in his defence was nowhere near the side that he had left behind. It was ageing and struggling for goals, though after an argument over defensive duties Mourinho dropped Juan Mata, the two time Chelsea player of the year and sold him to Manchester United. It was scenes reminiscent of the dropping of Iker Casillas as Madrid, Jose was trying to prove a point. A third place finish followed, a 4th consecutive Champions

League semi-final appearance followed for Mourinho who bemoaned the squad that he had. Saying that it was not good enough to compete, despite some already sizeable investment. In the summer that followed Chelsea made big money moves for Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas as well as bringing back Didier Drogba (a move that was hardly going to help the ageing nature of the squad). By current standards the second season was uneventful, Chelsea won the League and the League Cup but it was done in what is now a typical Jose style drab, uncreative and uninspiring. Mourinho began again making himself a martyr when his techniques were questions he took the brunt of the criticism so rather than the players. In was an attempt to create an us vs them feeling in the dressing room, this season it worked but it was treading a fine line

The following season, the thing really unravelled for Jose. After an opening day draw with Swansea, Jose lambasted the physio Eva Carneiro for treating Eden Hazard when he went down injured. The public dressing down did not go well, eventually, Carneiro was relieved of her duties and took Mourinho to court over his actions. The cracks that had started to show years ago in the 5-0 Classico were back. The Spanish press had torn him apart for just standing there and not doing anything, the English media were just as quick to jump on Jose here. The siege mentality that was created in the previous season simply wasn’t working and on the pitch, it was clear to see that the players weren’t buying to his methods. Eden Hazard especially looked a shadow of his former self. By Christmas, after 9 losses in 16 games, Jose was relieved of his duties again in West London.

After that, we have reached Manchester United. The main difference here is that the remarkable first season was not followed up by a second. The second season at United was trophyless and in truth, they were never really close to not being. When you read this article, all the chaos and all the nonsense that has gone with a normal Mourinho reign is still there, but without the winning to cover it up. Whilst at Manchester United Mourinho has called out Pep, Klopp, Conte and Wenger publically in an attempt to play mind games. With the possible exception of Wenger, all three managers have gotten the better of him during this spell. He has fallen out with the referees Anthony Taylor and Mark Clattenburg the most famous examples during this tenure. The siege mentality that served him so well in that second season at Chelsea doesn’t fly anymore. Any attempts that he makes to try to push the pressure on himself rather than his players seems farcical. Especially as based on the words of certain players they have no interest in what he says anyway.

The transfers haven’t really come off, at Real Madrid he threw money around and won everything under the sun. Whilst at Chelsea he signed players, only to constantly bemoan the quality of the squad, he could potentially say he did not have full control as Michael Emenalo was heading up the recruitment but that excuse only has so much traction. At Manchester United the same has happened, Jose lambasted the board for not giving him centre halves but he was the one who signed Bailly and Lindelof for big money. If you remember, he also signed Henrikh Mkhitaryan who was hardly a world beater at Old Trafford. One of the things he was criticised for at Chelsea was not bringing through youth and how younger players were never given a chance. When winning, this doesn’t seem like a problem, but the likes of Lingard, Rashford and Martial all seem to have regressed rather than kicked on. That isn’t to mention the public embarrassment of Luke Shaw that seems to have become routine.

His style of play has been called many things, critics call it boring and negative others call it winning. Winning is the key word here if you are playing a negative style of play and winning trophies 1-0

fans are not likely to care. The second things start going south fans, players alike seem to drain, and their mood seems to drop. This is when the pressure builds on a manager and this is the stage that we are going through now, so similar to the end at Chelsea but without the league title to back it up. Has Jose lost that golden touch? Has football evolved to the point that his style is outdated? To hear him speak now, that brash arrogance he first bought has been replaced by almost childish petulance. He does not have that inspiring effect on the fans that he once had. Watching him struggle to get the best out of the clubs record signing in a losing effort to Brighton isn’t going to help the cause.

If you were asking us, and you are that’s why you’re here, we think his days are numbered. By Christmas, I would bet United have a new manager but what damage will have been done by then is hard to say. Where will Mourinho end up after this? There aren’t too many big jobs available and he has burnt a lot of bridges, is it too early say China?

Let us know what you think! Get in touch in the usual ways, Comment below, Email us or Tweet us @Unlikelydanblog

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