Man United Q&A: From Mauricio Pochettino to where it all went wrong for Jose Mourinho

Sport360 Writers 19:27 18/12/2018
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Jose Mourinho.

Jose Mourinho has been sacked by Manchester United following Sunday’s 3-1 defeat at Liverpool, which left the club 19 points behind the Premier League leaders and 11 shy of fourth-placed Chelsea.

As the club look at their options, both in the short and long term, our writers Alex Rea, Chris Bailey, Matt Monaghan and Brendon Netto answer thee who, what, where, when and why for both United and Mourinho.

WHO COULD BE NEXT?

Mauricio Pochettino

Mauricio Pochettino

AR: In the long term? Mauricio Pochettino is the obvious candidate yet it’s question of whether he’d want the position. Yes, the investment is enticing but the restructure the club requires makes Tottenham’s new stadium look like a Lego build.

CB: We know who United WANT next – Mauricio Pochettino – but extricating him from the clutches of Tottenham, having recently signed a five-year contract, seems pie in the sky. You couldn’t trust Ed Woodward to close a window let alone a deal with Daniel Levy. Laurent Blanc is a realistic option given his links with the club, but he’s been gathering dust for two years.

MM: United fans have been promised “a thorough recruitment process” this time. The obvious names are Pochettino and Zidane. But this statement hints that the net will be cast further. Nuno Espirito Santo is doing a fine job at Wolves, while Eddie Howe wows at Bournemouth. Also, what about PSV Eindhoven’s Mark van Bommel?

BN: Zidane has enjoyed phenomenal success but United need to get things right at a fundamental level and Pochettino is just the man. He’s done a stellar job at Spurs, helping them consistently punch above their weight. With a clear footballing philosophy, flexible tactics and ability to nurture youth, he should be the top candidate.

WHAT IS NEEDED TO TURN THE CLUB AROUND?

Manchester United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward

Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward

AR: It’s not just a drastic squad overhaul that is required. Indeed, the whole image of the club needs to change because it’s become a brand machine and that focus has led to the wheels falling off on the pitch. Diluting the football operational power of Ed Woodward would be a good starting point.

CB: A director of football. Woodward is a brilliant commercial mind who was left to run amok by the Glazers on the football side of the ‘business’. A clear roadmap with a director of football is a must, and Woodward must take his snout out of it

MM: Pochettino will have the choice of Real Madrid, United or bedding in at Spurs’s grand new stadium. Amid this competition, United need an advantage. Pochettino admitted he was “very disappointed” by head of recruitment Paul Mitchell’s 2016 defection to RB Leipzig from Spurs. Why not get the band back together, at Old Trafford?

BN: There’s nobody to hide behind anymore. United’s hierarchy must take their next steps very carefully. The appointment of a sporting director should be just as important as that of a new manager. The objective can’t be winning titles right now. There’s no quick fix. It’s time to lay a strong foundation and rebuild.

WHERE DID IT ALL GO WRONG FOR JOSE?

Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho

AR: You could probably date it much earlier than this but the real turning point was when trusted No2 Rui Faria, who had worked with Mourinho since 2002, resigned in May of this year. That void was never truly filled and a crucial bridge between players and boss was broken when he departed.

CB: Mourinho was also a victim of the club’s dysfunction but he hardly helped himself. He had enough talent to at least be within spitting distance of Manchester City and Liverpool, but most players have stagnated or downright regressed under his stewardship. He’s never been an attack-minded savant so when he couldn’t so much as set up a defence, there was little point in him sticking around.

MM: We’re currently witnessing the, sorry, stage three of Mourinho’s managerial career – the grand descent. The ruinous character faults we see now in the Portuguese have festered since he imploded at the hot house of Real Madrid in 2012/13. His Chelsea return ended in flames after initial success and history has repeated, almost to the day, at United.

BN: Mourinho had done reasonably well in his first couple of seasons but Manchester City were too far ahead. That’s when he got desperate and demanded huge investment which wasn’t forthcoming. A defeatist attitude quickly surfaced. Mourinho needs his ego stroked and when he didn’t get the backing of the club, everything fell apart.

WHEN WAS THE TIPPING POINT?

Jose Mourinho during the defeat to Spurs

Jose Mourinho during the defeat to Spurs

AR: There have been a few. The alarm bells were ringing throughout the summer when Mourinho’s mood darkened over the club’s inability to secure the signings he wanted. That discontent carried into the season and the 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford to Tottenham – Mourinho’s worst as a host manager – was the sign this season would turn.

CB: It could have been any number of times in the last six months – embarrassed by Tottenham and West Ham, failing at home against Crystal Palace, the toxicity between Mourinho, Pogba and numerous others – so it was a considerable surprise when it finally happened. Woodward and co were the last to realise the situation was beyond repair.

MM: The Red Devils’ Faustian pact with the dastardly Mourinho was, definitively, ruptured in March’s unforgivable Champions League humiliation against Sevilla. Dreary football and dressing room tension can be tolerated when results follow. As soon as they stopped, an – expensive – divorce loomed for the United-Mourinho relationship.

BN: United were completely outclassed in the Manchester derby at the Etihad but the tipping point was in the following 0-0 draw at home to Crystal Palace. It was then that it became apparent the Reds found their new level as a mid-table outfit under Mourinho with the Eagles even edging the encounter on performance.

WHY CAN NO ONE SUCCEED SIR ALEX FERGUSON? 

Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson

AR: It’s a combination of factors rather than one discernible point. The somewhat amateur approach to the transfer market, the lack of vision in terms of structure, the problems with their scouting network and then marrying players with the wrong managers. The list could go on.

CB: Sir Alex was the last of the managerial Mohicans. Expecting David Moyes to flump onto his throne and carry on as if nothing ever happened was ludicrous. Fergie controlled every aspect of the club and the power vacuum caused an implosion. The failures of the managers are in many respects symptomatic.

MM: Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward. The 47-year-old has ravaged United’s footballing operation for more than a decade. As an investment banker at JP Morgan, he played a pivotal role in the debt-laden Glazer takeover of 2005. Since 2013, he’s destroyed predecessor David Gill’s fine work. An unmatched commercial brain, but an unmitigated sporting disaster.

BN: Alex Ferguson surrounded himself with bright people who helped take United forward and consistently adapt to the times but there was an over-reliance on him and David Gil to manage the moving parts. When both left, there was no structure to fall back on. They lacked the continuity needed to make what was always going to be a difficult transition.

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