In the end, despite the great success he brought Chelsea over two periods in the hotseat, the sacking of José Mourinho came as little surprise. Somewhere along the line, things had turned sour. His players were lacking motivation and his team were lacking points. Club owner Roman Abramovic acted decisively, showing no sign of sentimentality.
Meanwhile, over at Old Trafford, Manchester United appear to be heading towards a similar crossroads which features three of the world’s most decorated football coaches and a young pretender.
A version of this article first appeared on Fanfeud.co.uk – head down there for Daily Fantasy Football games with cash prizes.
Along with the realisation that it may take some time to steady the ship, there was still a hint of promise at the beginning of Louis “judge me after three months” Van Gaal’s tenure at Manchester United. That promise – and patience – is dissipating fast. Injuries have taken their toll in recent weeks but they have only really highlighted the weaknesses of a safety-first philosophy and a seemingly haphazard transfer policy which has left key areas of the side – defence and attack – looking threadbare.
Attack, attack, attack is the oft-heard call from the stands. There is regular talk of playing the United way and a growing feeling that Van Gaal just does not get this. Or is too stubborn to care. If United had continued to get results, their manager’s methods may well have been tolerated a while longer.
Unfortunately for him, they haven’t. Although clearly in a healthier league position than Chelsea, United are now without a win in six games. Just like The Blues, however, performances on the pitch have caused questions to be asked. Any goodwill that the Dutchman enjoyed due to his impressive c.v. and the fact that he wasn’t David Moyes is also fading.
The end of Jose Mourinho’s second stint in charge at Stamford Bridge was hastened due to player power. It is reported in the Mirror, and other outlets, that similar unrest is bubbling under the surface at Old Trafford. Players, and supporters, are unhappy at the boring tactics and poor results, while there is also talk among the United stars of an excessive workload.
It could quite easily be David Moyes that we are talking about again. Plus ca change.
Rumours circulated last week that LVG was being given two games, or maybe even just one, to save his job. There were even suggestions in some quarters that Jose Mourinho had been sounded out already and an announcement was imminent.
CONFIRMADO: José Mourinho é o novo treinador do Manchester United. 5 anos de contrato. Amanhã Oficial.
— Joao Silva (@JoaoSilvaFutebo) December 20, 2015
By Monday evening, these were still unfounded. However, rumours can become self-fulfilling as they breed a lack of confidence and provide an easy target for blame. Louis Van Gaal himself took on the gathered media at United’s pre-boxing day match press conference on 23rd December, complaining at their treatment of him.
Even so, United have been quiet through this. Could they have done more to stop the rumours? They must surely act quickly before the rot sets in. Whether stick or twist, there is no time to lose.
If United did decide to twist, the preferred option to take over the reins would probably be Pep Guardiola. He has recently announced that this year will be his final season at FC Bayern Munchen and has often spoken in glowing terms about the Manchester club. However, the stars do not appear to have aligned favourably on this occasion. United’s crosstown rivals, City, look to have stolen a march on the Red Devils and seem primed for the Catalan’s arrival.
The football romantics among us, of course, would plump for Ryan Giggs. A member of the much-feted and omnipresent “Class of 92”. Yet there is nothing that has happened since Sir Alex Ferguson retired to suggest that he is able to go straight in to the top job. He knows the club inside out, of course, and his status at Old Trafford would buy him some time – but can United afford to wait for him to develop on the job?
The dilemma for the Giggs is that, in going elsewhere to get that experience he requires, he risks going down the same route as other ex-United stars who have been touted, however tentatively, for the job in the past: Bryan Robson, Roy Keane, Steve Bruce, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer etc., whose reputation quickly diminished.
With Carlo Ancelotti destined to fill Guardiola’s shoes in Germany, the only real alternative to Van Gaal is Jose Mourinho. As divisive a figure as always, there are as many people who believed he should have taken over from Ferguson in 2013 as those who want him nowhere near the club. Most importantly, though, he now has some free time on his hands. And he has long-fancied a shot at managing the club.
He has a sort of history with the Red Devils. We all recall Jose Mourinho’s Old Trafford touchline antics with FC Porto and, much later, him effectively pleading for the United gig in an extraordinary post-match performance following his Real Madrid side’s win in Manchester in the UEFA Champions League in 2013. There was also the time he was supposed to have broken down on hearing that Moyes had been chosen to take over from Ferguson.
Under normal circumstances, Guardiola would be worth waiting for. Indeed, there are some suggestions that he would prefer United over City if Manchester was his destination. However, can Ed Woodward afford to wait? Can United take the risk?
What is certain, they must either put to bed the rumours, or take decisive action. That leads back to Mourinho.
There are stumbling blocks: Mourinho’s abrasive nature has not exactly helped his cause – Sir Bobby Charlton is one vociferous opponent we know of to his appointment in the past. Like Van Gaal, he has also been previously criticised for his various sides’ negative brand of football. And his past record hardly marks him out as a long-term fix.
Can Manchester United afford to wait and miss out on one of the world’s top football coaches but, at the same time, close the door on another?
It is going to be an interesting few months in Manchester.
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