Once revered as the best manager in European football, Jose Mourinho’s aura of invincibility has eroded considerably over the last few years.
After an underwhelming and ultimately trophy-less season with the Red Devils, the Premier Leagues return in August could mark the beginning of the end for the Portuguese tactician’s spell in Manchester.
A 2-time Champions league winner, 3-time Premier League winner and domestic league champion in 3 other countries; Jose Mourinho has earned a sterling reputation as a pragmatic coach who’s winning mantra is based on success by any means necessary.
He is not afraid to sacrifice style for efficiency and discipline – a formula which has garnered huge success in the form of trophies won, but also plenty of criticism from fans and pundits in equal measure.
Additionally, he is widely renowned for being one of the most difficult managers in world football to work with, for players and staff alike. His arrogant, no-nonsense approach has alienated people everywhere he’s managed, having famously never lasted longer than 3 consecutive seasons at the helm of any of his clubs.
Regardless of the off-field issues Mourinho brings, demand for his services has always been high, simply because of his track record which practically guarantees success on the field.
Until more recent times that is, where everything seems to have changed for the current Manchester United manager. He is no longer the charismatic, cool and collected customer we were all once so enamoured by.
Since his train-wreck of a final season at Chelsea 3 years ago – during which he was sacked in December – Mourinho has struggled to match the ridiculously high standards he had set previously and his overall demeanour and attitude has been in a steady decline.
More divisive and controversial than ever but without the endearing confidence and charm he once oozed in abundance; Jose is now more well known for publicly crucifying his players and baffling hypocrisy when talking about his peers in management, than winning football matches.
On numerous occasions last season, he criticised players in the media, most notably Luke Shaw, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial – all of whom have struggled to make an impact for the team as a result.
By calling out these young players in the public eye – rather than motivating them to prove him wrong – he has succeeded only in demotivating them and driving their confidence into the ground.
When you compare that harsh, remorseless man management approach to that of Pep Guardiola’s at Manchester City – who works tirelessly on player relationships in order to build confidence and improve camaraderie within his squad – it is not difficult to see why Mourinho divides opinion so strongly amongst Manchester United fans.
He could be forgiven if his two-year spell at the club had been trophy-laden to this point, but with just a Europa league and Carabao Cup to show for his efforts and no significant title challenge mounted; Jose is fast running out of excuses and supporters.
The ineptitude of United’s defeat at the hands of Sevilla in the Champions League, the embarrassing losses to all 3 promoted sides in the Premier League and the defensive set up seemingly designed to play for draws in matches against the top 6, have done little to suggest that Mourinho is the right man for this huge football club.
Manchester United is a global superpower and a brand that used to represent free-flowing attacking football and unprecedented success. Unfortunately, it has been anything but in the years since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure.
Moyes, Van Gaal and now Mourinho have all failed to propel United back to the top of the game and if Jose cannot buck that trend next year then surely the board will be forced to act.
This summer transfer window is a huge one for Mourinho and with Brazilian midfielder Fred and fullback Diego Dalot signed already from Shakhtar Donetsk and Porto respectively; he has emphasised his intentions to bolster his squad in a bid to chase down neighbours City next season.
With at least 2 more signings expected before the transfer window closes, squad depth will likely not be an issue for Jose. However, getting the best out of his star players is a whole different kettle of fish.
Superstars capable of changing games such as Pogba, Sanchez, Lukaku and Martial, all need to be handled with care and finding the best possible system to maximise their attacking potential has to be a priority for Mourinho next season.
Too often last year were United guilty of laborious and predictable build-up play, which cannot be a recurring theme if they are to stand any chance of closing the gap on Guardiola’s swashbuckling City side.
It is no exaggeration to say it is last chance saloon for Mourinho going into his 3rd year at Old Trafford and unless he can rediscover his winning formula and enthusiasm for the game, as well as evolve as a coach both in his style and communication methods – United will soon be on the hunt for their 4th manager in the last 6 years.