After the news reports surfaced on Friday evening that Jose Mourinho was to be sacked win, lose or draw against Newcastle on Saturday evening, it looked as though the players at United were getting their wish at last.
Following a summer of moaning, maybe Mourinho himself felt the first twinge of relief too.
And perhaps that explains why, with the side conceding two goals in ten minutes to a team who’d managed just four league goals all season, the players who’d apparently “given up” on Jose dug in for the last twenty minutes and pulled off the kind of comeback that, in happier times, defined Old Trafford Saturdays.
Turning on the style against a side who should be grateful to Cardiff for taking up one relegation spot may have been an act intended to prolong the manager’s agony, as the stirring comeback after a disastrous opening against the second last team in the league has been framed as providing a stay on Jose’s execution.
BT Sport talked up the dramatic comeback, with two of the manager’s most prominent media critics, Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand, conceding that whatever Mourinho had done the voodoo doll of Rafa Benitez he surely owns merited him being allowed to continue on beyond the international break.
Looking ahead on their fixture list, he may have preferred to go now. Chelsea and Juve are up next, with City away on November 11th lurking in the background after a second meeting with the Italian champions.
But he seems to have survived for now. Maybe Alexis Sanchez will join the illustrious company of Mark Robins, whose FA Cup third round goal at Nottingham Forest in 1990 has garnered a (questionable) reputation as the goal that saved Alex Ferguson’s job.
We wouldn’t bet on it.
Really, Saturday evening’s game shouldn’t make a difference to the United’s decision makers.
If reports are to be believed, it was Paul Pogba, not the manager, who devised the crucial half-time changes that saw the game turn.
That sums up the authority the former Chelsea manager now holds at Old Trafford.
He was prevented from signing the players he wanted during the summer. Players are clearly fed up of his unrelenting negativity and not responding to his methods.
While there are plenty of supporters willing to back him over Woodward and the ownership – and justifiably so – most seem worn out by the Mourinho show after almost two-and-a-half years of bust ups and let downs.
To cap it all off on Saturday, it was Pogba and Martial who were central to the United fight back – two players who, if the manager had his way, wouldn’t be at the club.
What’s clear is the void left after Alex Ferguson has not been adequately filled, and Mourinho is the latest to flounder. The chief exec, whose expertise lies in negotiating commercial deals, has been allowed to wield an influence beyond his capabilities over the football side of the club.
And while the executive’s statement to investor’s during the summer that “playing performance doesn’t really have a meaningful impact on what we can do on the commercial side of the business,’ may hold for now, how the team plays and performs will begin to impact the bottom line at spme stage.
The Adidas contract, for example, has clauses relating to Champions League qualification. The home opener to their European campaign this season had the club texting supporters to inform them of tickets still being available up to the game. Will tractor manaufacturers and noodle makers want to be associated with a club that become a by-word for footballing ineptitude?
While speculation about Zinedine Zidane’s possible arrival will fill pages and appeal to some, the problems at the club go beyond Mourinho.
Still, he’s clearly not the right fit for United, and the restructure required should see him leave while Woodward relinquishes much of his football responsibilities.
If Jose was going to be sacked before the Newcastle game, the board should follow through with that decision now.
Indecision has been the Red Devils brand since 2013.
Flip-flopping on the Mourinho call would fit the pattern to a tee, and show that things are likely to get worse before they get better at Old Trafford.
He could have bought...
0.00 Freddo Bars
0.00 Krispy Kreme sharer dozens
0.00 Netflix annual subsciptions
0.00 original Banksy Rat prints
0.00 Frankel's foals
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