|Zidane to Replace Mourinho at Manchester United||2/1||Paddy Power|
|Mourinho to be Sacked this Season||5/2||Ladbrokes|
A day seldom goes past now that there isn’t negative news coming out of the Manchester United camp. Such is the sorry state of affairs the Red Devils are in, fans cannot catch a break without hearing of a new falling out or problem on the pitch.
This week, in Manchester United’s serial comedy show, has seen Paul Pogba, one of the senior players of the squad, lamenting his manager’s choice of tactics after drawing 1-1 to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League. After querying why he and his teammates are failing to constantly attack their opposition, he found himself in the stands during the midweek Carabao Cup clash against Derby County.
Man United’s season could not have got off to a poorer start. While some results have landed fortuitously in their favour, they have been outplayed by five of their opening six opponents in the top-tier English competition.
Only against Burnley had United played with a sense of cohesion and thoroughly deserved the win. There would have been no surprises to United fans if they had dropped more than the seven points they already have this season, judging from their lacklustre and uninspiring displays.
But the most embarrassing performance of all so far has been their most recent one: a penalty shootout knockout to Frank Lampard’s Derby. Upsets in cup competitions do happen and they’re not irregular for United - they’ve been knocked out by Coventry, MK Dons and Middlesbrough to name a few in the past 10 years - but it was the way in which the players had seemingly accepted their fate and showed a disrespectful lack of hunger, desire and enthusiasm at the task in hand.
Manchester United’s press office has been extra busy since Mourinho took charge, but they now have another fight on their hands in trying to quell the constant questions around a specific player-manager relationship.
It has been reported that, due to Pogba’s remarks which undermine the manager, Mourinho made the decision to strip the Frenchman of the vice-captaincy and publicly told the squad, in front of the World Cup-winning midfielder, that he will never captain the club again. Pogba has supposedly had his head turned by certain European clubs over the summer and is looking for a way out of the North West come the end of the season.
What hasn’t helped matters from the club’s perspective is a video that has now gone viral from Sky Sports News. It highlights Mourinho seemingly aggrieved at Pogba’s latest Instagram post, with the two trading verbal blows that clearly indicate a rift. There is palpable tension between the two and this short clip now adds a further layer to the current predicament that is only worsening their relationship.
The current malaise around United’s squad and manger certainly isn’t helping them win matches, with performances clearly suffering and unnecessary points being dropped. Even trusty confidants in Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matić are not operating at the standard that the former Chelsea boss would have envisaged. The players have been affected by the noise around the club and it feels very similar to the story that unfolded in Mourinho’s final year at Stamford Bridge.
Zinedine Zidane remains the favourite to take over Mourinho’s position, should he be relieved of his duties. The former Real Madrid manager, who delivered unprecedented success in Europe for Los Blancos, is priced at 2/1 with Paddy Power.
The big question on the lips of Manchester United fans is who will leave first between Mourinho and Pogba? Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, has made it clear to clubs across Europe that he is reluctant to sell his star player, and if he was to change his mind, an acceptable fee would be well north of £100 million.
Given Mourinho’s well-documented third season downfalls, it would not be a surprise to see affairs go from bad to worse over the course of the next few months. While United will not yet be thinking of pulling the trigger - which will entail a monstrous payout - history states that when Mourinho takes to this spiralling path, there are rarely any upsides left in his wake.
If the Portuguese coach is not careful, he could be on the verge of losing the dressing room. Already there are rumbles from other players besides Pogba regarding the tactics and brand of football he’s asking them to play, as well as some public criticism from the manager that has not gone down well.
Oddly, Mourinho publicly admitted to the press that he knew United were ‘in trouble with [Phil] Jones and [Eric] Bailly next on the [penalty] list’ against Derby. There’s one thing thinking it - as many United fans did - and another coming out as the manager after you’ve lost and stating it - not a great way to boost morale after a humiliating defeat, nor inspire confidence.
There is still plenty to play in this drama sitcom that airs every other day or so. Pogba looks set to book his first class ticket to Barcelona, especially after the week he’s had; Mourinho is, one by one, crushing the other players’ confidence in the dressing room and hanging on by a thread; and the fans are totally fed up, disappointed and detached from the club they love and adore. What has happened to Manchester United?