Once upon crisis, at the close of an underwhelming summer transfer window, the spotlight turned to Ed Woodward, the Manchester United executive vice chairman. Woodward decided, in all his wisdom, to announce that the club would recruit a Director of Football.
[dropcap]C[/dropcap]ast the memory back to moments after the transfer window closed in August. José Mourinho was already in a huff during Manchester United’s summer tour, holding little back in his critique of the summer’s business. The United manager also let slip that he had submitted a five-man wish-list to executive vice chairman Ed Woodward well before the end of the last campaign.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he recent events surrounding Manchester United – both on and off the pitch – have created an embarrassing air around the club. Gary Neville’s scathing, yet heartfelt, attack on the state of the club two weeks ago resonated with many supporters. Yet, in focusing his displeasure on Ed Woodward alone, Neville failed to address two other issues: United’s ownership and the manager’s failing performances.
[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ootball is a simple game, former England striker Gary Lineker once said in a quip about the Germans always winning. So why does José Mourinho find it so complicated? More than 18 months into the job he always wanted, Mourinho has created an expensively assembled collection of individuals. The team is perpetually over the horizon.
Friday night’s comfortable 4-0 win over Yeovil Town in the FA Cup completed a very good week for Manchester United. On Monday weeks of speculation ended when Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez was confirmed as a United player. Then came the news that manager José Mourinho had signed a contract extension keeping the Portuguese manager at the club until at least 2020, with an option for another year.
[dropcap]J[/dropcap]osé Mourinho should be the perfect manager for Ed Woodward and the Glazers, at least from a PR point of view. In recruiting the Portuguese tactician Manchester United, and Woodward in particular, hired a bona fide super-coach to bring success back to Old Trafford, as well as offering the marketing department a figure around which to build the club brand. Moreover, they appointed a human lightning rod, a character who demands the spotlight and sucks the oxygen of publicity away from everyone else. For owners as reclusive as the Glazers, Mourinho’s appointment ensures that attention is focused exclusively on the manager and not them. Or so they thought.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]o bastardise a phrase, Mourinho was the future once. As a New Year dawns, it is natural to reflect on successes, failure and hopes of the year past and for the one ahead. It is an unfortunate time to analyse José Mourinho’s tenure at Old Trafford, as his lethargic side has stumbled through the festive fixture list with three successive, disappointing draws. This leaves Mourinho’s pre-season title hopefuls staring nervously at top four rivals and not up at the near flawless neighbours. After a season and a half as Manchester United manager, questions remain about Mourinho’s performance, and his future.
[dropcap]J[/dropcap]osé Mourinho’s assertion that the £300 million he has spent since taking the Manchester United job in 2016 is “not enough” to compete in the Premier League is easy to mock. After all, he has been afford more investment in less than two full seasons than David Moyes or Louis van Gaal before him. More, indeed, than Sir Alex Ferguson over the Scots final few seasons at United. Yet, in the context of Manchester City’s generation of heavy spending, the Portuguese may well be right, though it hardly explains all United’s ills. How the club spends its money is far more of a challenge to bridging the gap to the rampant Blues.
“It is as bad as a defeat,” admitted José Mourinho after Leicester City scored a last-minute equaliser at the King Power Stadium on Saturday night. Manchester United created the best chances and spent 20 minutes with a man advantage, yet left the East Midlands feeling despondent. Two disastrous results inside three days will do that. As for José: he threw his players under the bus. Twice.
There have been three occasions on which Manchester City has visited Old Trafford with the clubs occupying the top two spots in the Premier League. Yet, the latest instalment has an entirely different narrative to it than those that proceeded.