Manchester United: Will Mourinho be sacked this season?

Having criticised his players during a pre-season tour in California, the Manchester United coach is looking ripe for his usual ‘third season syndrome’.

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REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Jose Mourinho is famous for undergoing what has been labelled ‘third season syndrome’ at football clubs. After a frustrating pre-season tour of America, he looks to be living up to his stereotype, raising questions about a potential sacking by Manchester United this season. 

Over the past few seasons, Mourinho’s style of play has become less favourable amongst Manchester United fans, with the side being labelled ‘boring’ for playing defensive football rather than attacking. This showed in their 4-1 defeat to Liverpool last week, a match in which they only took three shots throughout the 90 minutes.

Of course, any attempt at prediction based purely on pre-season would be laughed off by most pundits. However, in this case, the Portuguese seems to be headed on a collision course with the Manchester United board.

No attempt at damage limitation

In the press conference after the loss to Liverpool, the Red Devils boss harshly criticised the team’s preseason performance, telling their fans not to bother coming to watch their next game. 

“If I was them I wouldn’t have come, I wouldn’t have spent my money to watch these two teams,’ said Mourinho. ‘For example, I was watching Chelsea against Inter on television today. The people there decided the beach is better than this, so the stadium was empty.’ 

REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

If this sounds familiar, then cast your mind back to his final interview as Chelsea manager before being sacked in 2015. 

During the press conference, Mourinho turned on his own players, claiming his ‘work was betrayed’ by the squad’s poor performances.

Under the bus

This lashing out at the players is also far from unusual and has been a regular occurrence throughout Mourinho’s bouts of ‘third season syndrome’.  

Just look at the way he dealt with Anthony Martial, who has not returned to the club’s pre-season tour since the birth of his child.

REUTERS/Carl Recine

“He should be here, but he’s not here”, said the United boss just days after the birth of Martial’s son. 

Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba have also had a strained relationship with their manager. While Pogba’s feud with his boss has cooled somewhat, Luke Shaw has continued to battle with the Portuguese after Mourinho made a series of comments about the full-back’s weight problems.

Fighting on and off the pitch

Manchester United is not the only club where the Portuguese coach has failed to build relationships with his players. 

Kaka, who worked under Jose Mourinho in his time at Real Madrid, claimed: “Having not received the confidence of the coach, I could not work with him. The joy I had was to receive a message when he left Real Madrid.” 

REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Mourinho is also unhappy with chairman Ed Woodward’s refusal to bring in more players to the club as he showed his doubt over landing transfer targets. 

“I would like to have two more players. I think I am not going to get two,” Mourinho said.

The final countdown?

The first few weeks of the season will offer a more definitive answer to the question ‘Will Jose Mourinho continue to suffer from “third season syndrome” at Manchester United?’

If the club succumbs to a series of poor performances and their manager gives bizarre press conferences, then we might reasonably claim to be seeing a trend in Mourinho’s behaviour before departing previous clubs.

Mourinho was sacked by Chelsea during his third season at the club and also left Real Madrid in 2013 after a third season. Are we seeing the first signs of what’s coming in Mourinho’s third season at Manchester United?

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