Manchester United have parted company with manager Jose Mourinho after the collapse in confidence around the club and the team in the No-Longer-Special-One.
The extent of Mourinho’s failure to put United back on Premier League title-winning track after the dull days under David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal has been exacerbated by the contrasting, simultaneous successes of neighbours City under his old nemesis, Pep Guardiola.
United had spent almost £400m on new players since Mourinho’s arrival in 2016 but though he had whinged and whined perpetually about poor dealings he also failed notably to bring the best out of world-class talents such as world record signing Paul Pogba who has been omitted for the last three games including last Sunday’s 3-1 defeat at Liverpool.
Mourinho extended his £250,000-a-week contract until 2020 only last January. Recently-retired Michael Carrick is expected to take charge ahead of Saturday’s Premier League visit to struggling Cardiff City but the club is thought to have an interim appointment already prepared.
Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward took an increasingly-inevitable decision less than 24 hours after United had been drawn against Paris Saint-Germain in the second round of the UEFA Champions League.
The Portuguese’s two-and-a-half year spell ended abruptly after the club’s worst start to a Premier League season. They are 19 points adrift of the leaders and 11 behind the top four, as well as already conceding more goals than the whole of last season.
A club statement read: “Manchester United announces that manager Jose Mourinho has left the club with immediate effect.The club would like to thank Jose for his work during his time at Manchester United and to wish him success in the future.
“A new caretaker manager will be appointed until the end of the current season, while the club conducts a thorough recruitment process for a new, full-time manager.”
Mourinho took charge in the summer of 2016. His admiration for United and legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson had never been a secret and his arrival appeared inevitable.
United won the Europa League and League Cup in his first season and finished second in the Premier League last season. However he never embraced the club’s tradition of mixing big-money buys with youth talent and this term United have won only seven of 17 league games and were knocked out of the League Cup at home by second-tier Derby.
Woodward has also been criticised for United’s transfer failings and his own future is likey to rest on his next appointment. Speculation will focus inevitably on Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino and former Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane.
The new man will face a major task in repairing the damage from Mourinho’s miserable reign and, not least, in contributing to rebuild the image of a club which has focused more on money off the pitch than football trophies on it.