herald

Saturday 21 July 2018

Fans' backlash is ominous for the Beaten One

Jose Mourinho. Pic: Reuters
Jose Mourinho. Pic: Reuters

Manchester United supporters were clinging to the hope that last Sunday's derby would be an occasion to settle a few scores.

They had hoped for a performance to silence their noisy neighbours, put Pep back in his box and narrow the gap on Manchester City to five points.

Jose Mourinho, and by extension, his expensively-assembled team didn't read the script, didn't lay a glove on their opponent and after just 15 minutes, Manchester City gave a clear signal that it was going to be a long evening for those in the red corner.

Pep Guardiola could have afforded himself a wry smile as he watched red shirt after red shirt boot the ball to no-one in particular while his City side, which also cost a pretty penny, dominated the game with an excellent passing display and ultimately walked away with the three points.

Marcus Rashford gave temporary respite with a goal to inexplicably send the teams in 1-1 at the interval, but that was as good as it got.

Former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique.
Former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique.

United fans are living in the past if they're still hoping for an all-out attacking display that was the hallmark of the Alex Ferguson era. These days it's City that win matches in 'Fergie Time.'

From the Chosen One (David Moyes), to the Arrogant One (Louis van Gaal), to the Special One, finding Ferguson's ideal replacement is proving almost impossible for United's board.

The clamour for Mourinho, despite initial opposition from Ferguson and Bobby Charlton, was understandable. As a proven winner of trophies, many United supporters wanted him to replace Ferguson back in 2013.

It might have been the best call at that point to ensure United simply got over the hangover of losing Fergie.

And timing is everything because now - despite winning a League Cup and a Europa League in his first season - Mourinho's in the firing line and as ever, he's the architect of his own troubles.

Courting Paris St Germain in October, picking an unnecessary fight with the fans over Romelu Lukaku in November and worst of all, this month came the stark realisation that Manchester City are so much better than United.

Judging by the reaction outside Old Trafford on Sunday evening, United fans are in open rebellion again.

They didn't hold back in their criticism of Mourinho or his players and if the Portuguese's ears were burning, a shower of water and milk courtesy of the City dressingroom would have momentarily cooled them. In a classic Mourinho deflectionist move, he picked a row with City after the game and went as far as to say they were "lucky" to win.

But United fans aren't blind. What they saw horrified them and the most damning statistic of all - according to Opta Sports - is that City's goalkeeper Ederson had more touches of the ball (41) than any outfield United player.

Last Sunday didn't sit well with them and they will acknowledge now that this is probably as good as it gets with this side under Mourinho. His method is dated, while City under Guardiola are irresistable, and that will cut deepest.

Mourinho's squad is limited at the highest level, despite the huge outlay, and many of that disillusioned and underwhelmed Red Army will be already looking at the Next One. Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino is the bookies' favourite to succeed Mourinho, followed by Atletico Madrid's Diego Simeone, Germany boss Joachim Loew, the well-travelled Carlo Ancelotti and former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique.

The Champions League is realistically the last remaining campaign that could bring about Mourinho's salvation.

If that goes awry, his courting of PSG will flare up again and Manchester United will be searching for a new manager next summer. It remains to be seen whether United supporters will be sorry to see him go, however.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News