At least once during the past two months you’ve probably muttered to yourself: “What the heck is going on at Manchester United?”
You were, and are, right to think that.
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Theorists who back the ‘Jose Mourinho third-season syndrome’ are currently rubbing their hands gleefully as they get ready to sit back, grab some popcorn and watch the meltdown.
But what are the issues at play? Why is Mourinho more miserable than usual? How are things threatening to teeter on the edge of the abyss?
Even if Manchester United sign a few players in the final day of the window (to add to Fred, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant) it hasn’t been a happy summer for Mourinho’s side.
1. Jose Mourinho and Ed Woodward’s relationship is strained – Anybody who saw that awkward embrace (if we can even call it that) between Mourinho and executive vice-chairman Woodward following United’s preseason game in Miami knows all is not well between them. Mourinho has mentioned time and time again how he’s given his list of players to Woodward and that’s all he can do. Sir Alex Ferguson and Martin Edwards (then David Gil later on) were pros at getting deals done for United. Fergie would set them up, Edwards or Gil would get them done. Mourinho and Woodward are doing neither and the pressure is cranking up on both.
2. Players getting sick of constant mind games – Instead of congratulating Paul Pogba on his stunning displays in the World Cup or Anthony Martial on the birth of his new child, Mourinho went in an opposite direction over the summer. He said it is time for Pogba to “figure out” what his best position is and how to play it at United like he did so brilliantly for France during their World Cup success. He also questioned why Martial was gone for so long of United’s U.S. tour during the birth of his child. Mourinho’s coldness knows no bounds. It’s not even the star players who should be upset. Mourinho calling out most of the squad on the U.S. tour as not being good enough to play with Alexis Sanchez was such a poor move considering that was the hand he was dealt after the World Cup. It was the same for Man City and Liverpool, but you didn’t hear Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp complain about it. The opposite was very true.
3. Even the fans are getting tired of Mourinho – If you listen to talk shows discussing United’s summer, you have two camps. 1) There are fans who love Mourinho no matter what and they blame Woodward for not giving him the squad he needs, despite $400 million being spent since he arrived in 2016 as boss. 2) Fans who are sick and tired of Mourinho’s constant negativity and they can’t even point to a particularly exciting brand of play despite finishing best of the rest last season behind runaway winners Man City. Even FA Cups, League Cups and the Europa League won’t sway them in wanting Mourinho out, even if there isn’t a better alternative.
4. The kicker: Man City are amazing and Liverpool is spending big – The truth of the matter is, Mourinho has arrived at United during a time of transition and where their closest rivals are further ahead in their projects, due to vast resources, having more time and support, or both. Pep Guardiola has been backed in the transfer market and already had a plethora of superstars to work with when he arrived in 2016. He’s already delivered a title and stunning teams to watch at City. As for Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, he’s spent huge sums of cash upgrading his defense and midfield this summer and despite Mourinho’s snipes he is backed by his board and the fans almost unanimously after arriving in October 2015 and fostering an exciting, attacking style of play.