The Premier League weekend before the international break was dominated by talk Jose Mourinho was about to lose his job as Manchester United manager.
According to one national newspaper, the Portuguese’s time at the club would come to an end regardless of the result against Newcastle on 6 October.
Even after United staged a remarkable late comeback at Old Trafford to win 3-2 – having trailed 2-0 after 10 minutes – callers to BBC 606 were split over whether Mourinho should keep his job.
Afterwards, the Portuguese said he could cope with the “manhunt” against him and reiterated that the contract given to him by the club ran until 2020.
So would United be justified in ending his two-and-a-bit-year tenure, or is he being judged too harshly?
As Mourinho prepares to face former club Chelsea on Saturday, we take a look at the facts…
Is Mourinho’s record that bad?
Well, he has a better win ratio at United than Sir Alex Ferguson, who is the most successful manager in the history of British football.
|Man Utd managers from Ferguson onwards (all competitions)|
|Jose Mourinho||Sir Alex Ferguson||David Moyes||Louis van Gaal|
With 20 major trophies to his name – won in four different countries – the 55-year-old is justifiably portrayed (often by himself!) as a serial winner.
He has claimed two major trophies at Old Trafford – the League Cup and Europa League, both in his debut season – and never finished lower than sixth in the Premier League, coming second in 2017-18.
There has been a dip in form this term, with three league defeats in the first eight games and elimination from the League Cup at the hands of Championship side Derby.
|Mourinho’s seasons at Manchester United|
|Points per game||1.82||2.13||1.25|
|Trophies won||League Cup, Europa League||None||–|
However, after a frustrating summer in which he failed to land key transfer targets, Mourinho did warn of difficult times to come in 2018-19 – and he still has three-quarters of the season in which to turn things around.
Is there an issue with his tactics?
This is the crux of the matter for many.
“Attack, attack, attack” is a now familiar refrain from the home support at Old Trafford, accustomed to successful, stylish football throughout the Ferguson era.
“With Mourinho you will always get trophies and success. It might not be a happy place but he does deliver success,” former Chelsea and Scotland winger Pat Nevin told BBC Radio 5 live.
“The system he has adopted throughout his career has been very successful, but the question has now arisen as to whether he is a dinosaur and if he is outdated? I don’t think he is.”
Former United midfielder Paul Ince feels Mourinho should remain as manager but disagrees with Nevin, telling the BBC’s Sportsweek the Portuguese must adapt to give the fans the attacking football they want.
“I’d like him to stay but he has to start changing from his methods that he used years back to understand that the game’s gone forward,” said Ince. “Don’t be a dinosaur and start attacking teams like we have done over the years.”
Mourinho’s tactics noticeably differ from many of United’s main top six rivals, for whom pressing is a key part of their approach.
However, amid the perception that United do not play with the dynamism of Liverpool, it is interesting to note that Mourinho’s men fare marginally better than Jurgen Klopp’s team when it comes to stopping opponents progressing up the pitch – albeit United are only the 10th best side in the division in this regard.
Teams are also finding it relatively easy to keep the ball against United, who disrupt opponents’ play with a tackle or interception after 13.3 passes on average – only the ninth best in the division but, again, slightly better than Liverpool.
Ultimately, though, it is goals scored which will dictate whether a team is sufficiently attacking. And on this front United trail all of their main rivals in the period since Mourinho’s appointment.
Have his signings failed?
|Mourinho’s Man Utd signings|
|Eric Bailly (defender)||Victor Lindelof (defender)||Diogo Dalot (defender)|
|Zlatan Ibrahimovic (forward)||Romelu Lukaku (forward)||Fred (midfielder)|
|Henrikh Mkhitaryan (midfielder)||Nemanja Matic (midfielder)||Lee Grant (goalkeeper)|
|Paul Pogba (midfielder)||Alexis Sanchez (forward)|
Mourinho was left frustrated by the club’s inability to sign a central defender this summer, although he did start the campaign with two he brought: Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof.
However, neither has convinced Mourinho, with the manager recently suggesting his side “lacks the technical quality” to play out from the back.
Bailly even suffered the ignominy of being withdrawn after just 18 minutes against Newcastle, with former United defender Rio Ferdinand telling BT Sport he “can’t see a way back” for the Ivorian at the club. Lindelof spent the evening watching from the bench.
|Bailly & Lindelof Man Utd stats|
|Bailly||PL rank (since 2016-17)||Lindelof||PL rank (since 2017-18)|
|Errors leading to shots||1||46th||2||104th|
Last January, United stole a march on rivals Manchester City to sign Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal, swapping him for an early Mourinho signing who had underwhelmed, Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
The Chile forward scored the winner against Newcastle but has so far failed to reach the heights he managed at Emirates Stadium, particularly with regards to goalscoring. Interestingly, though, he creates a chance slightly more often than when he was with the Gunners.
Two other strikers – Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku – have impressed under Mourinho. The Swede scored 17 goals in 28 Premier League appearances in his one full season, while Belgian Lukaku has hit the net regularly since joining from Everton in July 2017.
Midfielder Nemanja Matic began his United career superbly with an impressive campaign last season but has struggled for full fitness and form this time around, admitting that his display in the 3-1 loss at West Ham was the worst of his time at the club.
It is too soon to judge Diogo Dalot and Fred, although the latter’s sizeable fee is likely to afford him a shorter honeymoon period.
Is Mourinho failing to get the best out of other big players?
This brings us to Paul Pogba, who Mourinho re-signed from Juventus for a world record £89m fee – but the pair have had a fractious relationship since.
- 24 September: Paul Pogba v Mourinho part 1- Questions club tactics following 1-1 draw with Wolves
- 25 September: Mourinho v Pogba part 2 – ‘No problems’ but ‘second captaincy’ taken away
- 26 September: Mourinho v Pogba part 3 – Training-ground incident between pair
The France midfielder’s performances have been erratic at United, but the stats do not suggest a significant recent dip in form from the World Cup winner.
|Paul Pogba at Man Utd|
|Mins per goal||521.6||358.5||346.5|
|Mins per assist||652||215.10||346.5|
|Mins per chance created||45.75||55.15||57.75|
|Pass accuracy %||85.07||85.30||83.75|
|Tackle success %||75.47||69.70||62.50|
However, Spaniard David de Gea – one of the highest-rated goalkeepers in the world – has endured a dramatic downturn in form this campaign.
|David de Gea expected goals conceded|
|Expected goals conceded||39.66||12.97|
|Premier League ranking||1||16|
And then there has been the public criticism of the likes of Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw, leading some pundits to suggest he has lost the dressing room.
Has he developed young players?
The club would appear to be pleased with Mourinho’s work with young players, with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward saying in the announcement of his contract extension last January: “Jose has embraced the club’s desire to promote top-quality young players to the first team.”
Injuries have limited some players’ game time in the past, notably Shaw, who has featured more heavily this campaign and now signed a new five-year contract.
Forwards Lingard, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have all been subject to criticism from their manager, but it can be argued they have slightly improved their attacking involvement over Mourinho’s tenure.
|Young attackers under Mourinho|
|Season||Games started||Goals||Assists||Chances created|
If he does go, who do United get in?
Zinedine Zidane? Antonio Conte? Mauricio Pochettino? Ryan Giggs?
There will not be a shortage of names in the frame should the Manchester United job become available again.
Former Real Madrid boss Zidane, who left the Bernabeu in the summer after having secured a third successive Champions League title for the club, is the bookmakers’ favourite and his appointment would not be impeded by United having to negotiate his release from another club.
Ex-Chelsea manager Conte, who won the Premier League title in 2016-17, is also out of work, as is Laurent Blanc, who played for United in the early 2000s and was most recently boss of Paris St-Germain.
Of those in a job, Tottenham’s Pochettino and Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone have been linked. As has, inevitably, Giggs, who won everything there was to win during a 24-year playing career at Old Trafford, spent a brief period as interim boss in 2014 and is cutting his teeth in international management with Wales.
Whether one of those gets the chance may depend on whether Sanchez’s late winner against Newcastle proves to be Mourinho’s Mark Robins moment.