Second in the table, through to the last 16 of the Champions League and without a league loss in six games.
Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United may not seem like they are in the middle of a crisis, but many have predicted his Old Trafford reign could be well on its way to his customary meltdown.
Many commentators have speculated on how Mourinho’s stints at clubs have followed three-year cycles – with the Red Devils boss never lasting longer than that at any club.
This cycle generally sees Mourinho come in and make immediate changes in his first season. He generally improves the club he is at, without necessarily reaching his ultimate goal, but he puts the building blocks in place.
His first stint at Chelsea and his tenure at Inter Millan were exceptions to this, with league titles won in his first campaigns on both occasions.Embed from Getty Images
The second season has never seen Mourinho fail to win the league title, with the third season seeing the eventual meltdown with Mourinho leaving among controversy. However, with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City seemingly running away with the Premier League title this campaign, some feel as though his downfall at Old Trafford could come much earlier than expected.
Mourinho’s side is made up of many expensive parts, including £75 million Romelu Lukaku, £30 million Nemanja Matic and £90 million Paul Pogba.
However despite such a large spend, primarily on United’s attacking arsenal, Mourinho’s side has come under fire for their defensive approach. Add this to some apparent alienation of certain members of his squad, public spats with United legend Paul Scholes and constant passive aggressive press conferences filled with claims of bias and conspiracies, and the future could be bleak for the special one.Embed from Getty Images
The 2017/18 season looked a promising one for Mourinho’s team. The additions of Lukaku, Matic and Victor Lindelof, the retention of David De Gea and the continued development of young players like Markus Rashford, Eric Bailly and Anthony Martial made for an exciting start to the fixture list.
Quite the opposite of how his side seems to be viewed now.
The Red Devils began the season with two successive 4-0 wins, against West Ham and Swansea, with their attacking ability receiving large amounts of praise. United didn’t taste defeat for another six games before a shock loss to newly promoted Huddersfield.
Mourinho’s men looked fully prepared for a title challenge alongside their Manchester neighbours and up until December it fully looked as though that would happen.
Nine points dropped in the hectic December schedule and a defeat to Championship side Bristol City, which saw United knocked out of the League Cup quarter final, has piled the pressure on.Embed from Getty Images
However, the Red Devils can still be confident of securing Champions League football, they are in the Champions League last sixteen, with a winnable tie against Sevilla, and have progressed to the fourth round of the FA Cup.
While it certainly isn’t all doom and gloom, with their title challenge looking all but dead and buried, United’s support has to be disappointed.
The results certainly aren’t the only story to be told within the United dressing room – perhaps had that been the case you wouldn’t be reading this article right now.
Mourinho’s exits from clubs in the past have rarely been based purely on results. He has left multiple clubs with a trail of devastation behind him, generally involving disputes, arguments, unhappy players and staff and, almost always, unhappy supporters.Embed from Getty Images
His first stint at Chelsea came to an end amongst disharmony with owner Roman Abramovich and some of his key directors, including Mourinho’s successor, Avram Grant. His next job with Inter Millan didn’t face as fiery of an exit, although Mourinho did seem to use his success with the Serie A team to manoeuvre a move to another club. He eventually got that switch, with Real Madrid paying a massive compensation package to tempt the Portuguese coach to the Santiago Bernabeu.
This would prove to be Mourinho’s biggest drama yet as he eventually leaving the side, which he led to one La Liga title, following the breakdown in relationships between him and key players, such as captain Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and star of the team Cristiano Ronaldo.
This was accompanied by Mourinho’s now common complaints of bias against him and his team from referees, UEFA, the media and anyone else who had he had felt wronged him on that particular day.
Of course Mourinho’s most recent collapse took place at Chelsea. The aforementioned issues of conspiracy theories regarding bias were just as prevalent as his problems with getting performances out of the previous season’s stars, Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas.
This only heaped the pressure on the special one who had supposedly lost the support of club captain John Terry. Potentially the biggest controversy surrounded a legal battle with former club doctor Eva Carneiro, who he had sacked after yet another row.Embed from Getty Images
Familiar cracks already seem to be appearing on the surface for Mourinho at Old Trafford. Some troubling results and a failure to keep up with Manchester City is frustrating enough, but a style of football that has been branded boring, attempting to shut out a talented young player like Luke Shaw, press conference tirades and claiming his club need to spend more to compete with City has created these cracks.
Mourinho has seemingly always had a strained relationship with the media, and this season has proven no different. When recently discussing transfers with Sky Sports, Mourinho walked out of his interview before answering a question regarding weather he intended to spend big in the January transfer window.
When he isn’t arguing with the press themselves, he is using them to continue spats with other managers. Jose has previously sparred with former Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez, now boss at Newcastle, and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
But now his attentions seem to have shifted towards his Chelsea successor Antonio Conte.Embed from Getty Images
Following a war of words Mourinho dug up Conte’s past four-month suspension in Italy for his role in a match fixing scandal while manager of Siena. Conte had taken a Mourinho comment regarding touchline antics personally and made a jibe regarding the United boss’ supposed short memory.
This clearly did not sit well with the Old Trafford boss who said: “What I was trying to say is that I behave bad a few times and this moment I control myself better. It doesn’t mean my passion is not the same.
“So wrong question and obviously a strong answer and I don’t blame. The only way I want to end the story is: yes, I made mistakes in the past on the touchline and yes, I will make less but I’ll still make a few.
“What has never happened to me, and will never happen, is to be suspended for match-fixing. That never happened to me and it will never happen.”
Mourinho’s seemingly constant public disagreements, be it with other managers, his own club’s doctor or the media only draw further attention to any of his side’s shortcomings.
His tactic with the press for years has been to drum up controversy in order to shield his team from criticism. After a loss the coach may accuse the referee of bias in order to change what will make up the back pages of the paper the next day, rather it be a headline regarding Mourinho himself than his team’s poor performance. However, this tactic is completely transparent now and only results in a larger focus on United’s failings when they don’t play well.
While Mourinho’s moody attitude seems mostly to be directed at outside sources, it’s hard to imagine that doesn’t leak into areas inside of the club. As a manager known for previous issues with players, it wouldn’t be surprising to see similar problems crop up again.
We have, after all, already seen flashes of this with Mourinho’s refusal to play Luke Shaw for a lengthy period of time while openly criticizing the left back in the papers.Embed from Getty Images
At the beginning of the season there were rumours that Shaw’s relationship with Mourinho had broken down to such an extent the defender feared his United career was over. However, Shaw’s man of the match performance against Bournemouth last month has led to the England international completing the full 90 minutes for the last four games in a row.
While their relationship appears to have been temporarily mended for the time being, the ticking time bomb that is Mourinho’s temper could prove to be fatal for his Manchester stint with tensions already high.
However, the most worrying development for Mourinho could be his public clash with United legend Paul Scholes. While United fans may be more accepting of their managers feud’s with the media, the FA and even other managers – in fact they encourage it in some cases – players who they hold in such high regard are generally untouchable.
Scholes – who is regarded as one of the best United midfielders ever – had blasted Paul Pogba for his recent performances. Mourinho, meanwhile, looked to defend his star midfielder after what he regarded as a top performance from the Frenchman against Everton.Embed from Getty Images
Taking aim not just at Scholes, but also at other former United players working as pundits, the Red Devils manager suggested they were heavy handed with their comments about the team due to dissatisfaction at failed attempts to earn backroom jobs at Old Trafford.
Mourinho then focused on Scholes, saying: “I think the only thing Paul Scholes does is criticise. I don’t think he comments, I think he criticises, which is a different thing. Not every one of us has to be phenomenal like he was as a player. That does not mean we all have to be phenomenal.”
Suggestions of Mourinho leaving at the end of the season to join Paris Saint German could simply be rumour. While it does seem like a job the Portuguese may take eventually, it certainly doesn’t meet the Mourinho pattern to give up on a job without fulfilling his goals first.
Should he not win the Premier League at Old Trafford, it seems quite unlikely Jose would go without being pushed first.Embed from Getty Images
His career has been full of patterns – the three-year cycle, the pattern of falling out with players, and his fiery relationship with the press.
Yet another pattern in Mourinho’s time as a manager has been that he rarely leaves a club as a result of one singular issue – it s usually a combination multiple problems.
United supporters and, more importantly, the Manchester United board may have been able to look past the tension between their coach and the media. They could have looked past his disgruntlement with the large amounts of transfer funds available to him, and they may have even gotten over the larger issues such as failing to compete with their biggest rivals and public disputes with a club legend.
But there comes a time when enough is enough. It could only be a matter of time before Mourinho leaves another club in a disastrous cloud of smoke.
Written by Lewis Michie
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