Jose Mourinho goes back to picking fights with his players
By Joe Harker
Manchester United have gone a month without a Premier League win after drawing 2-2 with Southampton at the weekend. The Saints scored twice in the first 20 minutes and the score was even before the end of the first half. An uneventful second half ensured two teams that really needed a win were denied a precious three points and the confidence boost that accompanies it.
The Daily Record reports that after the game United manager Jose Mourinho tore into midfielder Paul Pogba, calling him a "virus" and accusing him of lacking respect for his teammates and the club's fans. Duncan Castles reports that the incident occurred in front of the matchday squad as the manager said: "You don't play. You don't respect players and supporters. And you kill the mentality of the good honest people around you."
Pogba had a poor game and has often struggled to live up to expectations surrounding him due to his £89 million transfer fee and his world class displays for Juventus. However, there have been other occasions where he has bailed Mourinho out of trouble with an excellent display, perhaps most notably in 3-2 wins against Manchester City last season and Newcastle United this season.
There have been plenty of times when Mourinho's verbal punching bags in the United squad have won a game and saved their manager from pressure and criticism. The occasions where an individual moment from a player has saved United after a lackluster display are becoming all too frequent. The manager should be aware that the targets of his ire have bailed him out plenty of times, Pogba included.
Jacob Steinberg of The Guardian argued that "United players are drowning in Jose Mourinho's sea of negativity" as the manager picked a defensive team against a Southampton team in all kinds of trouble. While Pogba is not playing well enough at the moment there are 10 other United players on the pitch and a manager who is seemingly picking teams to make a point as he looks more likely not to be in charge next season.
This certainly isn't the first time Mourinho has singled out a player for criticism and Reuben Pinder of Joe.com suggested the manager has made a habit of picking a high profile player in his squad to pick on. Iker Casillas of Real Madrid and Eden Hazard of Chelsea are the most high profile examples and both seemed to flourish once Mourinho was gone.
Jermaine Jenas questioned how things could go on at United with Mourinho. The former player turned pundit believes the manager is sending out a clear signal that he doesn't trust his squad and suggested that with so many underperforming the fault lies with the manager rather than the team. One or two players underperforming may be their fault but when the whole team looks like they can't be bothered eyes turn towards the manager.
ESPN suggests the current situation with Mourinho is "dire but not irreparable". His playing style doesn't fit the club's ethos and his man management seems to consist of insulting his own players but he still has enough to work with at the club to salvage the season.
Mourinho needs to show he still deserves to be in charge of the team and at the moment he isn't doing so at all. When things reached the end at Chelsea he became more occupied with preserving his own reputation and trying to prove that he had been let down by others. He slates his players, laments a lack of backing in the transfer market and picks teams seemingly to demonstrate that he hasn't got the same resources as other clubs.
He appears to be in that mode at United, heading for the exit and lashing out while trying to prove he's not the one at fault. While it is true that not all the team's problems can be laid at his feet it is also true that the club are having an even worse Premier League season than when David Moyes was manager. Mourinho doesn't seem to have the answers to turn things around and has fallen back on the blame game.
Perhaps the time has come for the manager to go, or perhaps that time has already been and gone but United are waiting for the cheapest and most convenient time to pull the trigger, just as they did with Moyes and Louis Van Gaal.
In the post Sir Alex Ferguson years the club has waited until qualification for the Champions League was impossible before firing the manager, making them cheaper to sack and allowing the people who appointed him to hide behind the manager's failure and dodge responsibility for appointing them.