JOSE Mourinho has become odds-on favourite to be the next Premier League manager to be sacked. And, there are eerie parallels between this season’s Manchester United and the Chelsea side of 2015-16 when Mourinho was shown the door eight days before Christmas.
Three years ago, Mourinho’s Chelsea were 13th on the table at the end of August, the same position in which Man United find themselves after two defeats in their opening three matches.
It is the worst start to a season by the Red Devils since the 1992-93 campaign under Sir Alex Ferguson.
After the 3-0 home loss to Tottenham Hotspur on Monday, bookmakers slashed the odds of Mourinho being fired before any of his rival coaches to 10/11, ahead of Southampton’s Mark Hughes (9/2) and Rafa Benitez (8/1) of Newcastle United.
And, acccording to Betfair, Mourinho is at 8/13 to be sacked before Christmas and has virtually no chance – 1/4 are the doomsday odds – of lasting the whole campaign.
Man United’s next match is a Sunday trip to Burnley. The Clarets have made an even worse start to the season – they’re in 18th after one point from three games – but their seventh-place finish in 2017-18 will mark this game at Turf Moor as a danger match. They also forced a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford last December.
Defensively, Mourinho’s men are a disaster, conceding three second-half goals, including two in two minutes, to give Spurs a deceptively one-sided victory in their latest setback.
Midfielder Ander Herrera filled in as makeshift centre-back as part of a back three and played Lucas Moura onside for his first goal. Specialist defenders Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly have again fallen out of favour, and Mourinho’s frustration at the club’s inability to sign a new centre-back in the recent transfer window has been widely reported.
But United have more than enough attacking firepower to compensate for their deficiencies elsewhere. The likes of England stars Marcus Rashford and Ashley Young, plus ex-Arsenal gun Alexis Sanchez, were all on the bench against Spurs, and other big names didn’t even make the match-day squad.
United leaked the second-fewest Premier League goals in both of Mourinho’s first two campaigns at Old Trafford, with just 29 and 28 conceded. The problem was scoring, with a disappointing return of 54 goals in his first season, followed by a mediocre 68 in his second.
Their four goals in three games in 2018-19 puts them 10th on the Premier League scoring lists, behind Fulham, Leicester City and Arsenal.
Given the lack of imminent defensive reinforcements, Mourinho will need to abandon his hawkish, counter-attacking instincts to let United shake their shackles and play in a more expansive style. It may be different to what brought him success elsewhere, but it could be his best chance of ensuring that the Red Devils keep pace with the blue side of Manchester, and their traditional rivals, Liverpool.
And it would also appease the Old Trafford faithful, who have been less than enthused by the brand of football they’ve seen from Mourinho sides since he took over in May 2016.
The so-called third-season syndrome has tripped up the Portuguese coach before, so he urgently needs to address his demeanour and attitude to ensure he doesn’t make another premature exit from a major club.
“Do you know what this means?,” an angry Mourinho snarled after the Spurs’ defeat, while holding up three fingers. “3-0, but it also means three premierships and I won more alone than the other 19 managers together. Three for me and two (Pep Guardiola and Manuel Pellegrini have both won titles at Man City) for them.
“Respect, respect… respect man, respect.’’
Like US President Donald Trump, Mourinho feels undervalued and under-appreciated for his achievements at the top. And like the under-fire New Yorker, Mourinho is fighting back and feeling victimised by the media.
But he needs to complain less, and take more responsibility for his own mistakes that have contributed to United’s current predicament.
He still has the kind of power-packed squad that most managers could only dream of. And while it may be prone to defensive blunders, there’s more than enough talent at the other end of the park to win matches in both the Premier League and UEFA Champions League.
However, we may have reached the point of no-return. While United won’t part ways immediately with Mourinho – executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward may be reluctant to admit his mistake – there is next to no chance that the ex-Real Madrid and Inter Milan boss will last the entire season.
It was always going to be a risky appointment, and he is certainly no worse than David Moyes or Louis van Gaal. But the temperamental and petulant Mourinho is not a good fit for a club like Manchester United, who crave stability, success and an attractive style of play.
Jason Dasey hosts Weekend Mornings on Singapore’s Money FM 89.3 and is CEO of Cockatoo Media. Twitter: @JasonDasey