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Why are Manchester United falling short under José Mourinho?

It’s fair to say that José Mourinho has had some turbulent spells in charge of Premier League clubs in recent seasons. His incredible record while managing Chelsea on two separate periods mean that Mourinho is not just one of the most famous managers in the Premier League, but one of the most famous in the world.

There is no doubt that at the moment, Mourinho is certainly stealing the limelight when it comes to controversy in the Premier League – something that few of us are really surprised by.

However, his successes from days gone by are slowly becoming overshadowed by the increasingly poor performances that Manchester United are putting out under his reign this season, resulting in their worst ever start to a Premier League season.

Whatever Mourinho truly thinks of himself these days, the “special one” alias may not be an appropriate attribute any more, and it would take a huge turnaround if this name is to be rightfully used again anytime soon. The Portuguese has deployed some interesting, intrepid and sometimes downright absurd mental tactics in the early stages of the season, which appear to be causing a stir in the Manchester United camp.

Say what you will about Mourinho’s actions, whether they really are tactics or simply the frustrations of a manager under a heap of pressure, they are certainly not doing anyone at the club any favours. So what exactly is causing these problems and the odd atmosphere surrounding the club at present?

Off the pitch

Off the pitch theatricals have become a far too common feature of life under Mourinho at United this year. Some uncharacteristic statements from the gaffer during pre-season and the early stages suggested that he may be a changed manager – and would speak more positively about his team. We are all guilty of not sticking to our New Years’ resolutions, but Mourinho’s new season resolutions really were a tall order it seems.

Even during pre-season, Mourinho was slamming Anthony Martial for not returning to their US tour shortly after his child was born. What exactly the manager was trying to achieve by making such statements I’m not quite sure, but it maybe foreshadowed what would follow in the coming weeks.



Next came the press conference that followed the 3-0 defeat at the hands of Tottenham. Mourinho finished the conference with a reminder of the three Premier League titles he has under his belt, somehow linking this to the three goals they conceded on the day, before walking away demanding “respect” from the congregation in a rather ungraceful fashion.

And more recently we saw the whole Pogba palaver develop into the French international losing his vice captaincy. The feud between player and manager is somewhat warranted, with Pogba not consistently performing to the same standards we saw from him during the World Cup, but Mourinho is hardly generating a cosy atmosphere for the squad.

Of course, us outsiders will never know the full story of what goes on inside any club – and exaggerations are sure to be aplenty among the football media – but when a huge club like Manchester United are falling way below their usual level, questions will rightfully be asked of the manager and the frankly abnormal relationship he seems to have with some key members of his squad.

On the pitch

So now we turn to what we can see, the analysis of Manchester United’s quality on the pitch. It’s clear to see that Manchester United are falling short in this area as well.

Only five teams have conceded more goals this season, and the Reds are among the ten teams who have a negative goal difference. With De Gea between the posts, who has performed so extraordinarily at United, it seems to be those in front of him that are causing the problems.

Their defence looks rigid and occasionally disorganised and West Ham’s third goal is a perfect example of how a brittle defence can easily be broken with one simple pass.

The Red Devils haven’t exactly been potent up the other end while under Mourinho either. Since the Portuguese took over in Manchester, the Reds have averaged just over 1.5 goals per game, which is quite poor for a club of United’s stature. Stars like Lukaku and Sanchez have not quite shined as bright as they have done in the past, which could simply be attributed to poor form.

Some interesting statistics show that Mourinho’s men, on average, have covered the least total distance of any team in the Premier League since the start of the 2016/17 season. This implies there is a questionable attitude from the players at United and that there has been since Mourinho became their manager.

Over a third of a billion pounds spent on players is not only looking like a tremendous waste of money, but also a huge waste of talent from the players who were valued so highly before they moved to the club.

Is time up for Mourinho?

It’s important to note that it is very early doors and there is plenty of time for Manchester United to recover some form and climb back up the table – whether under Mourinho or not. Recent reports have suggested that the 55-year-old will be getting the sack after the game against Newcastle, whether they win or not.



Amid these rumours, you’d imagine that Mourinho certainly needs to win this game. Newcastle are a struggling team who haven’t picked up a win in the league so far, and therefore should be a lifeline for Mourinho to retain his position.

But is this what the fans really want? There’s no doubt that Manchester United are going through some tough times with Mourinho at the helm and it may be in the best interests of the club if he left sooner rather than later. Anyhow, all the United fans can do is cross their fingers for a turnaround in the club’s performances and sit and wait to see the fate of their manager.

Harry Mahon

90maat's team correspondent for Tottenham Hotspur and a student at Loughborough University.

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