Graham Ruthven: Man United are wasting their time keeping Mourinho

Looking into his crystal ball Graham Ruthven feels Mauricio Pochettino is the perfect replacement for Jose Mourinho and he has a plan to get him…

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He has yet to start an argument with his physio, but the parallels between Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United career and the final days of his second Chelsea spell.

His downward spiral at Old Trafford hasn’t as dramatic, but despite the weekend’s win over Fulham, the slide has been undeniable.

Whether the end comes in the next few weeks or at the end of the season, it’s difficult to envisage how Mourinho will continue at Man Utd. The man himself seems to know it too.

Even when things are going his way, like on Saturday when United stuck four past Fulham, the Portuguese, whose greying hair matches his greying outlook, finds something to complain about (in this instance, the absence of water on his press conference desk).

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Manchester United are only wasting time by keeping Mourinho on for any longer.

Mourinho has already admitted that his side requires “almost a miracle” to finish in the top four, and given that United sit slumped in sixth place in the Premier League table, eight points adrift of Chelsea in the Champions League places, he has a point.

Chelsea likely would have sacked Mourinho by this point. They were reigning Premier League champions when they fired the Portuguese coach on 17 December 2015, but saw enough to make clear that things weren’t going to get better.

In Mourinho’s place, they installed Guns Hiddink, not for the first time, as interim manager before appointing Antonio Conte in the summer.

This is a precedent that Man Utd should follow. Fans and pundits are unanimous in their view that Mourinho cannot, and should not, continue for much longer at Old Trafford, with a decision needed before the 2018/19 season is completely unsalvageable.

As things stand, it’s still feasible that United could mount a challenge for a top four place, but not with Mourinho in charge.

They need a Hiddink. Someone who can provide a short-term boost until the end of the season when stronger candidates will be available.

Or rather, it would be when one stronger candidate in particular could be available – Mauricio Pochettino.

As Real Madrid found out in the summer and following the dismissal of Julen Lopetegui, Pochettino isn’t so easily obtainable. The Argentinean signed a new five-year contract as Spurs boss in May, meaning a gigantic compensation package would be needed to force Daniel Levy’s hand.

Despite this, Pochettino doesn’t seem so certain of his long-term future in North London.

It was just a matter of weeks ago that Pochettino confessed his unhappiness at Spurs.

“The season so far, it’s strange because my feeling is the worst feeling I’ve had in the five years that I’ve been here,” he said, citing stadium delays and a lack of summer spending as reason for his disgruntlement. “It’s the worst.”

So in theory it’s possible that with the right sales pitch, and a large enough compensation package, Man Utd could lure Pochettino to the club.

He is the manager Manchester United need, but that means waiting until the end of the season to make a move. That doesn’t mean that Mourinho should be kept on until that point, though.

He is doing a great deal of damage to the Old Trafford club.

Allowing Mourinho to continue until the end of May could see talents like David de Gea, Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba decide that their futures lie elsewhere, driving away fans in their numbers.

Another six months of Mourinho at United could see Pochettino take over a shell of a team in the summer.

Of course, finding a Hiddink figure to bridge the gap between now and the end of the season wouldn’t be easy.

Michael Carrick would find it difficult taking over a team he was a part of not so long ago, meaning someone might have to be brought in from outside the club.

Sacking Mourinho mid-season might be in one way a short-term measure, but if done the right way it could be a decision made with the long-term in mind. United fans are split into two camps – those who believe they need to appoint someone to save them now and those who believe Pochettino is worth waiting for.

Why can’t they do both?

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