Is Mourinho heading towards another third-season implosion?
November 1, 2019
The manager has experienced traumatic times in his third campaign in previous jobs and a repeat at Manchester United is being tipped by many
With less than a week to go before Manchester United’s Premier League season begins, Jose Mourinho has a lot on his plate.
He still hasn’t had the chance to work with some of his players who were at the World Cup, has had a public falling out with Anthony Martial, saw Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling and Nemanja Matic all pick up injuries on the US tour and has taken every opportunity possible to fire barbs at the club’s transfer chiefs over the lack of additions during the current window.
It is hardly ideal preparation for the new campaign, and with Leicester City due at Old Trafford on Friday night there is a vibe of dissatisfaction around the Theatre of Dreams. In a pre-season during which many people expected United to bolster expectation of a title charge to come they have instead displayed the character of a basket-case primed for open warfare.
In many ways this is nothing new for Jose Mourinho, with many people waiting for the walls to come crashing down on him in his third season at United in much the same way they did at Chelsea and Real Madrid previously.
His difficulties at the third time of asking are well known and oft-documented. There was Roman Abramovich’s decision to sign Andriy Shevchenko against Mourinho’s wishes in the manager’s third term at Chelsea which planted the seed for the rift between the pair and would eventually lead to a split early in the following season.
Then came the civil war he helped to create at the Santiago Bernabeu with his treatment of club captain Iker Casillas, and in his second spell at Chelsea there was the whole Eva Carneiro saga and an unprecedented slump on the field to within one point of the relegation zone before his December sacking.
Whereas he won a league title in year two of every previous assignment before arriving at Manchester United, he has failed to lift the main prize in the following season of any of his managerial roles. Moreover, he has found a way to do so in the most explosive of manners almost without exception. The results have been disappointing at every turn but have not in themselves been the major factor behind his respective departures.
And some of his behaviour this summer has had many speculating that the same pattern is being followed at Old Trafford, with a full-blown row with executive vice-chair Ed Woodward being tipped as a potential scenario. Certainly his demeanour has been of a man who is worried about what is to come rather than one buoyed by the challenges ahead. He has even admitted to a degree of fear over how ill-prepared his side are for the beginning of the campaign.
“We are going to start without the players that were involved in the World Cup, without proper training for them and it’s going to be hard. Honestly, I fear it a bit,” he told beIN Sports this week.
Former United star Lou Macari has told Goal that the sheer intensity of the focus on Manchester United has helped to make things more precarious for Mourinho.
“When he came to the club he’d have realised how big a club it was, but I think he’s just finding out now how massive it is. All the attention’s on Manchester United because it’s the biggest, and I think he’s getting more than a little bit annoyed about all the headlines. I just think it’s a bit of a tough time for him at the moment.
“He’s been at Chelsea, and they would never attract the same attention as Man United, and there’s a different type of media probably in Spain when he was there and he’s been in Italy, but there’s nothing bigger than Manchester United and you’ve got to handle all sorts of things.”
And Macari adds that the high expectation levels make things tough for managers at Old Trafford, and he sees Mourinho as being adaptable enough to make the changes necessary.
“You’ve got to win something wherever you are, but more so at Manchester United. If you win something, you haven’t failed, and obviously if you don’t win something then you have failed.
“Already, whether you like him or not, he’s won things. Even if you don’t like the style of play and all that, there are trophies there. That might not be good enough and Jose will realise that, and if he’s not happy with what he’s seeing then he’ll attempt to change things. But I think he’s finding it a little bit tough to concentrate on all of that.
“I think Jose will be starting to realise now that there’s a story from Manchester United every day even when there isn’t a story, and that wouldn’t have happened at his previous clubs.”
In reality the spotlight is only about to get brighter. For a full season to come everything about Mourinho’s demeanour, his approach, his actions and his words will be dissected every bit as much as his side’s results. Everybody is waiting either for him to fail or to ram the views of his critics back down their throats.
Because his reputation precedes him, his failures of years gone by loom large and will continue to do so until he sets the record straight by truly succeeding in season number three. The question is whether he has the capability to switch off the background noise and deliver the long-awaited 21st league title of Manchester United’s history.
Following a difficult summer, it would surprise few observers if he were to be old news by the time the Premier League trophy is handed over next May. Is another Mourinho implosion really on the cards?