At long last, the strained relationship between Jose Mourinho and Manchester United is no more. The statistics speak for themselves: how you interpret them is a matter of personal taste in many ways. A thorough analysis of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his management style might reveal the practical side of his arrival, but what of his social impact?
The heartbeat of any club though is the emotion of the fans. We have gathered a slightly more upbeat group of our writers to discuss what impact the sacking of Mourinho and appointment of former player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as interim manager will have.
Jose has gone – what is your gut reaction?
Krishnendu Sanyal: A Liverpool-supporting friend of mine texted that Jose Mourinho has been sacked. I didn’t believe him first and then I was shocked. I didn’t expect the board to wield the axe even though he had it coming. There is a tinge of sadness as well as I expected him to win the league during his three or four-season stay. The memories of Stockholm and Wembley are still fresh but so is Anfield on Sunday. Interesting Mourinho’s win percentage of 59.15 was only second to Sir Alex Ferguson as a Manchester United boss.
Rodney McCain: My initial reaction was primarily one of relief. The last six months have been like being locked in a room with a couple going through a painful, awkward, prolonged divorce proceeding. Mourinho has alienated just about everyone connected with the club over the last 12 months. Hopefully the suffocating negativity that he was very much responsible for creating at Old Trafford will have gone with him, too.
Jamie Brackpool: Sadly, I’m a realist. I don’t think this the ultimate fix. Don’t get me wrong, this sacking has been a long time coming with 29 goals against in the Premier League. We are 19 points off top spot and something had to change. But the manager isn’t the only problem.
I’m honestly just sad. Love him or hate him, Jose Mourinho did a lot of the club and it is sad to see the man go. It’s the right decision, don’t get me wrong, but he has etched his name into this club’s history for better or worse.
Harshal Singh: My honest, immediate reaction was one of relief. Old Trafford had become a joyless place under him, and our recent results had done nothing to improve the mood. The squad was clearly underperforming, and it did not look like Jose could do anything more to make things better. Something had to give, and it was Jose in this case.
Andrew Flint: Pure, utter elation. One of my biggest frustrations through this fallow period has been the lazy element of United fans. Some had simply decided to blindly back Mourinho ‘because we’re not a firing club’. Utter nonsense: the man was a parasite, a plague, and he didn’t deserve a shred of my club. His manner, manners, self-absorption, stubbornness, lack of results and pig-headed refusal to adapt… There are too many reasons why I was delighted.
How much blame does he have for his sacking?
KS: I have always maintained there’s a hierarchy blame at Manchester United. From the Glazers to Ed Woodward to Mourinho. Giving him a new contract in January was daft when you were not going to back him in the summer. I also feel one centre-back wouldn’t have radically changed our season. The absolute shambles that our style of play has been, the demoralised players, the lack of cohesion and energy was all down to Mourinho. Other managers might have knuckled down and try and get the best out of the players. But Mourinho decided to throw his toys out of the pram.
RM: He has a lot of responsibility for his demise, though not all of it. Yes, he didn’t get given every single transfer target by the club, but instead of knuckling down and working with the players he did have at his disposal, he has whined, bitched and destroyed any confidence people had in his ability to turn this very poor start to the season around. Ed Woodward has plenty to answer for, too. You do not give a manager a new contract in January and then refuse to back him the following summer. That is a ridiculous state of affairs.
JB: I can’t quantify the number, but I’d guess 10% the players, 40% Mourinho and 50% the board. The cancer at Manchester United grows from the tumour that is the Glazers. Mourinho was childish to reproach his boss on live TV, he wasn’t incorrect.
He had a 58.8 win percentage at United compared to Ferguson’s 59.7 win percentage. He’s no Sir Alex, but he’s no idiot either. He didn’t get the support he needed from the board, and it came back to bite the club in the arse. The post-Ferguson nightmare isn’t over, but with the right manager, we could be headed toward the light.
HS: Quite a fair bit. Yes, there are structural issues at the club, and yes, he was undermined by Woodward on transfers, Martial, Pogba etc, but at the end of the day, he carries the can for the squad, who had visibly stopped playing for him. Klopp, Guardiola and Pochettino have made their players better, while I can’t think of a single player to say the same of under Mourinho. That alone speaks volumes.
AF: It goes without saying that there are far deeper problems than one figurehead. Ed Woodward, for all his utter incompetence as a sporting director, is an excellent financial director. Distasteful as it may be to some, the realities of modern football are you get left behind if you don’t squeeze every drop of commercial revenue. Mourinho though was an appalling influence around the club, and his demise was his doing. Yes he wasn’t backed in the way he wanted, but he still had an almost world-class squad and failed.
Who would replace him in the long run?
KS: Manchester United’s decision to delay the appointment of the next permanent manager until the end of the season shows that the club have learned something. I think a director of football will be appointed in the next few months. He will be part of the decision on the next manager. To quote Gary Neville, Mauricio Pochettino is the outstanding candidate at the moment. His style of football, commitment towards promoting youth and his ability to work under a (considerable) budget, makes him the perfect fit. But who will negotiate with Daniel Levy?
RM: My preference would be Mauricio Pochettino. The man has done an excellent job at Tottenham, improving just about every player under his watch, and keeping Spurs relevant in the Premier League, despite facing serious financial constraints of his own. Spurs are committed to their new stadium project, which has taken longer and cost more than Daniel Levy envisaged. Yes, he has yet to win a trophy, but I think that’s down to bad luck rather than poor management. He would be an excellent young manager to take us forward for the long-term.
JB: Whomever Ed Woodward chooses, I hope to god they don’t choose experience. David Moyes, Louise Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho were all experience appointments. None of them worked out because the game has changed. Mauricio Pochettino is a manager who has proven he can make a team work, without spending money. With a net spend of -£29m at Tottenham, the board will be licking their lips. Surprisingly, Pochettino only has a 56.4 win percentage with Spurs and no major trophies to show for it. It’s a gamble, but I’ll roll those dice.
HS: I would love our next permanent manager to be Pochettino. He’s done a smashing job at Spurs on a budget, plays attacking football and trusts youngsters – all of which we need at United at the moment. Zidane is the glamour name, so I hope Woodward doesn’t fall for that and that there is some sort of a process around our hiring this time around.
AF: Initially I was tempted by the sanguine authority of Zinedine Zidane. I think I had been swayed by the sparkle of three Champions League trophies more than his genuine suitability to our club, though. Pochettino is the obvious candidate, and it seems a real possibility with Woodward already having contacted Paul Mitchell, Pochettino’s former right-hand man at Spurs. He has proven to be a motivator, enthusiastically attacking and able to work on a tight budget.
What do you make of Solskjaer’s appointment as interim boss?
KS: There have been murmurs of discontent about Solskjaer’s appointment. But what were the short-term options? Ed Woodward, in his statement, made it clear the Norwegian’s remit is to reunite the club. There’s not much we can read into his Cardiff spell as the circumstances at Old Trafford are different. He would have done his job if he just gets us playing some decent football and have an incident-free time until the end of the season. Most fans just want to look forward to weekends again.
RM: I’m absolutely delighted to see Ole return ‘home’. Along with Mike Phelan, he will at very least bring an end to the negative, poisonous atmosphere than has pervaded every aspect of United for the last year. I have NO EXPECTATIONS placed on Ole whatsoever, and nor should anyone else. He is coming into a mess, and if we end the season in 6th place with no silverware, so be it. He will hopefully invigorate players, who now need to prove to the fans that they deserve to remain Manchester United players after next summer. They no longer have Jose Mourinho to ‘hide’ behind or blame for their dire performances.
JB: I think Ole is a decent appointment. He may not set the league alight, but he’ll certainly bring passion back into the changeroom, and reunite the squad. He has already coached Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard during his time with the reserves, making managing their egos easier. God knows Pogba needs it.
Mike Phelan as his number two will only make things run smoother. The Norwegian has a 52.7 win percentage as a manager, but at Cardiff only had a 30 win percentage, damaging his overall managerial career statistics. With a team of superstars at his disposal, we might see Solskjaer prove himself as a top class manager.
HS: I’m quite happy, to be honest. Ole is a bonafide club legend, and he gets the club, which is what most fans want at the moment. He seems like the right guy to guide us through to the end of the season, and the football should be a lot better under him as well. Excited to see the impact he has, and can’t wait for our first home game with him in charge – he should get a smashing reception from Old Trafford!
AF: I have been astonished at the volume of backlash to his appointment. Personally, I think it was an inspired choice. For this specific situation, you don’t want necessarily the most technically proficient coach available given the temporary nature. It was essential that specific boxes were ticked: a working relationship with those at the club, good coaching experience, popularity, appreciative of youth and committed. Solskjaer ticks all of them. I honestly feel a positive connection with the fans is critical after the horrific run of dour arrogance recently. Who better then than the man to score endless stunning goals and never whinge?
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