Still Nothing Special


Shocked but not surprised was my and most people's reaction to Jose Mourinho being fired by Manchester United.

The Special One has been in a sulk since the summer when he complained about his transfer targets not being met, proof that he and the board were not seeing eye to eye.

Once that crucial relationship breaks down, the manager's job will always be under threat when the wins dry up.

Old Trafford
Old Trafford for the first post-Mourinho home game
Mourinho probably had a point when he blamed the club for not giving him the team he wanted to create. Watching millionaire misfits Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez run around to only moderate effect while their team relentlessly failed to gel or play the attacking football Old Trafford expects has been painful for Red Devils supporters.

The world's richest club by turnover had its worst start to a season in 29 years and sat nineteen points off the top and eleven points behind the Champions League places, leaving the Liverpool match last weekend as a last-chance saloon for Mourinho.

Derbies or high-profile cup games often cock the firearm ready for the discharge of a manager.

Yet sometimes the coach does not expect to lose his job.

I remember watching Chris Coleman in his final press conference for Fulham insistent that the chairman Mohamed Al-Fayed had no problem with him when he had already issued the directive to sack him.

On the other hand it is hard to forget the otherwise calm Ronald Koeman's anguished face in his final home match for Everton, feeling betrayed by the board and fully aware that nothing would stop the axe being wielded as Arsenal won 5-2 at Goodison Park.

We surely have not seen the last of Mourinho but as of now it is hard to see where he goes from here in club football.

His defend-first, cancel out the opposition second tactics seemed resolutely obsolete in England this season as the attacking flair of Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham motored past Man U's turgid playing style.

Yes he won the Europa League at Old Trafford but it was hard to see his side advancing past PSG, Mbappe, Neymar et al in the next round of this season's Champions League, the only competition which matters to a club the size of United.

Perhaps Mourinho will return to Portugal, be lured by a Serie A side or a national team will come calling. Yet it is unlikely he will manage a big English or Spanish club again.

As for Manchester United, they are still stuck in a post-Ferguson hangover. Their third replacement for their truly special one has failed and they have admitted they will not appoint a permanent replacement until the summer of 2019 at the earliest.

Mourinho had to go as it is a results-based business and there was no sign of improvement on the horizon, but he alone cannot be blamed for all United's woes.

Ed Woodward, the club's executive vice-chairman, will doubtless maintain his public silence but he has serious questions to answer.

United are in once sense still the biggest club in the world but for far too long have been performing like one of the also-rans.

With the resources available to them they really have no good excuses.

Their legions of fans across the glove deserve much better but five years on from the end of Fergie, an extraordinary gloom persists over Old Trafford.

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(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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