Last night it was leaked to the press that Manchester United were set to sack Jose Mourinho this weekend, regardless of the result.
The manager’s press conference had been moved to the unusually early time of 8am, to allow for Mourinho to meet with his agent, Jorge Mendes, and Ed Woodward in United’s London offices for a meeting.
Hours later, journalists were being tipped off that Mourinho was going to lose his job.
However, following the reaction of the media and supporters, it appears as though the club has made a U-turn, claiming this morning that Mourinho still has the board. If that had been the case yesterday, why did the manager get dragged to London the day before a home game to have his future reaffirmed? It doesn’t add up.
Gary Neville had launched a furious attack on the club live on Sky Sports last night.
“I think at this moment in time any manager in the world would struggle at that football club with the way that the recruitment is handled, the way in which it is operated,” he said. “Enough is enough for me. I absolutely love that football club, I absolutely love it to death. It’s been my life, it’s given me everything and I’m not turning on my football club. But I have to say something has to change and it isn’t the manager. It’s above that.”
Some supporters seem to think that Zinedine Zidane will come in, riding on a white horse, and save the day. While you can’t take the three consecutive European Cup wins away from him, there are some caveats to his success.
His team finished 17 points off the champions last season, just three points ahead of Valencia in fourth, and his squad included the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Isco, Karim Benzema and Marcelo, among others.
In the Champions League, Ronaldo scored 15 goals in 13 games last season, 12 in 13 the season before and 16 in 12 the year before that on the way to Real Madrid lifting the trophy. United don’t have anyone half as capable of producing trophy-winning seasons like that. Zidane did phenomenally well at Real Madrid but the conditions for success there are a million miles away from anything in place at United.
If not Zidane, who? Have Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna until the end of the season? Give it to Giggseh? I hear Sam Allardyce is out of work? Sacking Mourinho doesn’t solve our problems.
“If this is true – and we don’t know if it is – and Jose Mourinho is going to walk out at Old Trafford on Saturday almost as a dead man walking, those fans will absolutely turn towards that boardroom,” Neville continued. “It’s unacceptable. I have to say Jose Mourinho will get that the biggest support he’s ever had in his life in that ground – and I will be there to give it to him.”
Neville is right. Our fanbase is hardly enamoured with Mourinho and songs for him have dwindled in recent weeks. But given a choice between him and Woodward and the Glazers, the decision is easy. Mourinho is responsible for plenty of the failings at the club right now, which is why we haven’t sung about his red and white army too regularly recently, but it’s clear to all he is not the root cause of our decline.
Having steered United to a second-placed finish last season, our best since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, he needed to be backed in the transfer market if we were going to bridge the 19-point gap between us and City. Instead, he was given just £50m to spend, less than £30m net, making us one of the lowest spenders in the league. In fact, we were outspent by City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, West Ham, Leicester, Southampton, Fulham, Brighton and Wolves. This is the second year on the trot that Everton have spent more than us which is as embarrassing as it is unacceptable. With no disrespect intended to Everton, there’s no way a club of their size should be affording the manager more transfer funds than Manchester United.
There’s no denying that the players we have should be performing better than they are now. Mourinho has to take responsibility for the way the team is playing and the tactics he employs. The players also need to take a long, hard look at themselves for the apparent lack of effort they are putting in too. But ultimately, what did the club expect to happen when they made it clear in the summer that Mourinho’s time at Old Trafford was coming to an end?
Woodward vetoed Mourinho’s targets in the transfer window, claiming that the manager’s preferred choices didn’t represent good enough value for money, and expected this to not send a message to both Mourinho and the squad. United players will have seen the cash that other clubs were giving their managers. It’s not hard to work out that if United saw Mourinho’s long-term future at the club, they would trust him in the transfer market too, but they didn’t. How was the squad and Mourinho ever going to perform to the best of their ability in those circumstances?
Ed repeatedly briefed the press, claiming he had the ultimate say and had decided that spending £50m or £60m on a proven Premier League quality centre-back who was 29 wasn’t in the best interests of the club. They were asking Mourinho to prioritise players that would improve the club in the long term, rather than immediately, while also being prepared to sack him a few weeks in to the season if things didn’t work out. Woodward is clueless and the fact he’s the one deciding who we do and don’t buy, when he’s totally unqualified to perform such a task, sums up how inept decision making is under the Glazers.
United shouldn’t have renewed Mourinho’s contract earlier this year and they should have sacked him in the summer if they weren’t prepared to trust him in the transfer market. To keep him in his job, without providing him adequate tools to succeed, was brainless, and was only ever going to have one outcome.
Fans who have been silent on Mourinho in recent weeks will be in full voice this afternoon when we take on Newcastle. Woodward has backed us in to a corner, and it will be him we are telling to fuck off, not the manager.
“There is something rotten to the core in the decisions that have been made in the last four or five years and it has to be coming from the top,” Neville added. “If I employ a person beneath me and he fails, eventually I’ve got to take responsibility. I’ve got to stand up and say ‘I’m not good enough to do this’. The people in the boardroom who are overseeing the football operation are nowhere near good enough. They are not qualified. They are playing Football Manager with the biggest club in the world. Stop it. Put people in there who are qualified.”