Manchester United have announced that manager Jose Mourinho has left the club after a dismal start to the Premier League season.
The Red Devils currently sit in sixth position, nineteen points off league leaders Liverpool and eleven points behind the top four. The Portuguese manager’s last game for the club was a disappointing 3-1 defeat to Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Mourinho joined the club at the start of the 2016-17 season after the club failed to qualify for the Champions League under Louis Van Gaal. While the former Chelsea manager guided the Red Devils to a sixth placed finish in his first league season at Old Trafford, he did manage to win the Europa League, Community Shield and EFL Cup, thereby returning the club to Europe’s elite competition at the first time of asking.
Mourinho’s side did improve domestically last season, finishing as Premier League runners-up in the 2017-18 season, but did finish nineteen points behind Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City who ran away with the title.
United have announced that a caretaker manager will been appointed until the end of the season, with names such as Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Sir Alex Ferguson all deemed potential candidates for the temporary role.
Where did it all go wrong for Jose?
Mourinho’s sacking from Manchester United today comes three years and one day after his sacking from Chelsea in 2015, where he took Chelsea to 16th place just seven months after winning the Premier League title at Stamford Bridge.
Six months later he landed the manager’s role at Old Trafford, but this second sacking from a Premier League giant could sound the end of his career in England.
The feeling amongst the football world is that the inevitable has finally arrived – Mourinho looked despondent and fed up with affairs at Old Trafford before the season had even started.
A lot of effort behind the scenes had to be made in order to close the gap between United and their local rivals City – and now Liverpool – but the club came up very short in the summer transfer window.
A central defender was evidently needed in order to improve the playing squad, with names such as Harry Maguie and Toby Alderweireld touted as suitable acquisitions. Instead, the club only completed deals for Brazilian midfielder Fred and young right-back Diogo Dalot.
From placing the blame on his young players, to stating he was not happy with the progress made by his squad, this news can not come as a massive surprise. However, it is United’s next move which is more difficult to predict.
What do United do now?
Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, United have made three managerial appointments and all of them have been removed from their role prematurely.
David Moyes was deemed as the Chosen One, while Van Gaal and Mourinho were appointed for their experience in winning the major honours. All three accumulated a total of five trophies (two of them being Community Shields) and the Red Devils have achieved two top-four finishes since Ferguson’s departure.
These are striking statistics for the United hierarchy, who have failed to bring a managerial candidate to the United hot seat who has even come close to emulating Ferguson’s success.
Now the club’s chiefs have to make the right decision for the sake of the football club, in an application process which will presumably be led by chief executive Ed Woodward.
The most likely option that United will aim to pursue is a long-term attempt to lure Mauricio Pochettino away from Tottenham Hostpur. The Argentine has revolutionized Spurs into a regular Champions League side by playing attractive football using young players.
An approach for Pochettino, however, would be lengthy considering he signed a new contract at White Hart Lane in May of this year, which could explain why Manchester United have decided to appoint a short-term caretaker manager until the end of the season.
United do have superiority with regards to stature, reputation and funding over Tottenham, but with the Red Devils sitting thirteen points behind the north London club, would Pochettino deem a switch to Old Trafford as too much of a sideways move?
Another candidate for the role is former Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, who could realistically be announced as the new United boss tomorrow considering he is a free agent and he is the only manager without a job who has the attributes to fill the role.
The former France midfielder guided Los Blancos to three consecutive Champions League titles – which is just as many as United have in their entire history – while also pipped Barcelona to the La Liga title in 2017.
However, Zidane would not be interested in taking United on a short-term basis so he is unlikely to apply for the caretaker role at Old Trafford for the remainder of the season. If United’s approach for Pochettino falls through, then surely Zidane will be the next man that the club turns to.
And the short term option?
While United are miles away from the Premier League title, and arguably the top four, they do still have some targets to strive for until the end of the season.
While Mourinho flopped domestically this campaign, the Red Devils still have a Champions League last-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain to look forward to, while the club’s FA Cup journey begins at home to Reading in January.
The club will be looking for a man who will do United justice in both these competitions, and it is difficult to see the club’s hierarchy not selecting somebody they already trust.
Former midfielder Michael Carrick was appointed as Mourinho’s ‘trusted’ assistant at the start of the season, so is the early favorite to temporarily take over the reigns at Old Trafford.
Meanwhile, Ryan Giggs is another former player who could be tempted to move back to the Old Trafford hot seat. The current Wales manager was caretaker boss following Moyes’ sacking in 2014, and the fact that the former United winger has no international commitments until March could mean he is targeted for this short term role.
And what about Ferguson? Last season we saw Jupp Heyneckes come out of retirement to return to his position as Bayern Munich manager following Carlo Ancelotti’s premature departure – could Ferguson be tempted to do the same?
That would be a real turn up for the books, though an unlikely one considering the Scotsman’s recent health issues. But whatever United decide to do, there are sure to be many more twists and turns along the way.