Did Manchester United really plan on sacking Mourinho?
By Joe Harker
Before Manchester United's game against Newcastle United, Daily Mirror journalist David McDonnell reported that Jose Mourinho was going to be sacked regardless of the result. Citing "senior United sources", McDonnell said that the manager had reached the point of no return and would be gone no matter what. He is the same journalist who correctly reported that Louis Van Gaal, Mourinho's predecessor, would be sacked even if he won the FA Cup.
Soon afterwards there were conflicting reports from other publications that claimed no such thing would happen. The other reports said the manager was under no immediate threat from losing his job and he would survive the international break, being given a chance to turn things around.
Some have taken this to mean that the Mirror's report was inaccurate, or that McDonnell was making sources up. However, it is far more likely that the club released some information to one reporter to test the fan response to sacking Mourinho and did not like the feedback. When the Mirror story was published there was far more backlash for Ed Woodward and the Glazers than there was for Mourinho so they retreated from their decision.
At the 3-2 win against Newcastle the fans chanted the manager's name and directed a number of derogatory chants towards the board, Woodward and the Glazers. Even if fans no longer want Mourinho managing the team they are less supportive of the regime that appointed him and will continue to oversee matters at Old Trafford.
This is not the first time United have had a clumsy approach to briefing the media with Woodward in charge. They ended up undermining Mourinho earlier in the season in their attempts to explain why a centre back was not signed. The sacking of manager David Moyes was announced to journalists before the man himself was informed. As previously mentioned, David McDonnell correctly reported that Van Gaal would be sacked whether he won the FA Cup or not. The club seems extremely prone to leaking stories to the press in a way that makes them appear classless and incompetent.
Former United player Gary Neville slammed the club for "playing Football Manager with the biggest club in the world". He argued that the people in charge have shown they are not qualified to run a football club and urged them to step aside and make way for people who actually know what they are doing. A common accusation of United is that the business is more important than the football. In the past few years United has been excellent as a business but horribly run as a football club, with little appetite to make changes until now.
Whether Mourinho goes or not, the club has far bigger problems than the manager. Woodward's time in charge of the club has seen him become the figurehead for everything wrong with the club. Jonathan Northcroft of The Times suggests that Woodward needs to know his limits and understand that his lack of football acumen is causing huge problems at Old Trafford.
While he may be an excellent businessman who has secured a number of lucrative deals to bring more money into the club, his decision on the footballing side are far more questionable. If Mourinho goes then Woodward is responsible for a trio of failed managerial appointments. His decision to deny Mourinho some of his transfer targets is highly questionable. What is a businessman doing overruling a football manager on the suitability of transfer targets?
Meanwhile, the Glazers have drained more than a billion pounds from United in their 13 years as owners. There were a number of green and gold scarves on display around Old Trafford against Newcastle and fans seem ready to return to the days of "love United, hate Glazer".