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Jose Mourinho an eccentric but highly successful manager was sacked on Tuesday by Manchester United after a torrid start to the season that has seen the Red Devils fall 19 points behind league leaders Liverpool, a team they lost 3-1 against this past weekend.
It isn't a shock that in the end Mourinho was fired and he will go away with a reported £15m, giving him quite a Christmas present. United however, who were so stable for so many years have morphed into a team that seem unable to form any level of consistency, whether it be results or team selection.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013 United have reversed themselves in so many ways. No attacking flair, no never say die attitude and a feeling of success to finish in the top four. For an older generation it has been quite frankly bizarre to see what has happened to a once great club, but is the manager responsible for this or is there more to it?
Mourinho was always seen as a risk management appointment when he finally nailed the job that he wanted on his return from Real Madrid. Before this he went to Chelsea and won another Premier League title before the mother of club meltdowns made his 'special one' comment seem somewhat deluded. Mourinho's debut season at United could not have gone much better as he became the first manager in the history of the club to win silverware in his first campaign including the Europa League and League Cup. It felt as though Mourinho had proved his doubters wrong.
Even in his second season whilst no trophies followed Manchester United finished 2nd to the best ever performing team in Premier League history in Manchester City and infamously came back from two goals down at the Etihad to beat Pep Guardiola his old foe 3-2. Then came the third season syndrome, which has struck Mourinho with Chelsea and Real Madrid. However, this is not exclusive to Mourinho, quite a few managers of top level teams seem to struggle after a couple of successful seasons, why could this be?
There have been some bright moments during this season, drawing 2-2 at Chelsea, and beating Juventus in Turin was another highlight. Perhaps Mourinho's sacking wasn't green lit with the defeat to Liverpool but with the announcement of the Champions League draw, which paired them up with PSG. In short United have to win the competition to have any realistic chance of participating in it next year, and in that way United under Mourinho have taken backwards steps.
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His buys also must be questioned but were they all his buys? The club spent almost £100m bringing back Paul Pogba, only for the two to have an ongoing soap opera war of words, and some sources seem to indicate he had no say on the purchase of Pogba. One could argue Alexis Sanchez should have been a good signing, however he seems half the player he was in his Arsenal days. In fact, has the Chilean ever looked so poor?
A few seasons ago whilst at Chelsea Mourinho let Romelu Lukaku go to Everton. Whilst Lukaku did a fantastic job at the club, he seemed to have a desire to prove Mourinho wrong. Finally Mourinho brought him to Old Trafford, but despite netting 33 times for the club in two seasons, that just doesn't cut it at United and Lukaku has simply not been consistent enough. Certainly not all of the blame can be laid at Lukaku's feet though, there has definitely been unrest in the dressing room. Finally there is the case of Fred, the Brazilian who arrived for over £50m in the summer after an internal war with Ed Woodward, the vice chairman of the club and Mourinho. It was Mourinho who finally persuaded Woodward to part with the cash- and then sparsely picked the play-maker.
The nail in the coffin for Mourinho though is that to many he feels like yesterdays man. No longer able to motivate the team, using the same tactics that brought success in the past, and certainly struggling to build a team. In a world where football players are all over social media, words can be said and photos can be taken and in most cases taken and seen the wrong way. Is Mourinho's approach suited to the modern day footballer? Should it need to be though? Surely whether you're a superstar or not, or have a mountain sized ego, you should still give 100% for the team, for the fans, and for the manager, whether you get on with him or not. It's called being professional, and it seems to be something lost on the attitude of many modern day players. It would be nice to see the players take responsibility for poor performances, as sometimes it's obvious 100% isn't being given.
Yes his tactics aren't based around the modern high tempo, high press but does that make them bad? There is no doubt they aren't the most pleasing on the eye at times, but Mourinho has achieved trophies wherever he's gone so would his tactics not work if his players were giving 100%? Are players just too sensitive these days, with too large an ego to take any level of criticism? Where in the past it may have motivated a player, maybe it simply turns a player against their manager now. If the upset player has a big influence on the team, one bad apple is all it takes to spoil the whole bunch but instead of throwing out the bad apple, the manager is always the one to go.
And yet one wonders if Mourinho can collect his 'dogs of war' team, something akin to what he had at Inter Milan at the beginning of the decade. Could he come back to have one last hurrah and one last laugh at his previous employers? He did so against Chelsea, knocking them out of the Champions League in 2010 with Inter. For now we will wait and see what Mourinho does next, and do the very same with Manchester United a team that needs stabilised once more.