It was their worst start to any championship season in as many as 28 years. For a team considered to be a giant in world club football, only 10 wins out of 20 games is, to say the least, terrible. Anti-positional, even. It had the potential to be a major surprise initially. But nevertheless, it was always on the cards. Jose Mourinho, much-celebrated manager, was fired. The management had finally taken the leap.
The news, which came out early December 18th following an almost-devastating 3-1 loss to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at Anfield, was christened by a not-so-coincidental Instagram post by Paul Pogba, whose feud with Mourinho over the last season has been no secret to a sane person. Not to say, this garnered huge reactions across all social media, but that’s another story. For another day.
While most United fans cannot stop smiling ear-to-ear with the news, some feel it’s all a bit too late with the Red Devils currently placed 6th in the Premier League, six points behind 5th-placed Arsenal and a gargantuan nineteen points behind table-toppers Liverpool, all combining to make a Champions League spot for next year seem very, very unlikely. However things aren’t all gloomy for Manchester United as they did manage to qualify for the knockout stage of this year’s Champions League. What’s more, they have a long two-month break (holiday?) before their game against French rivals Paris Saint Germain. This affords the interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a fighting chance to get the boys back and running before the all-important clash. It however will be no easy task, as post Sir Alex Ferguson, United have had as many as four managers (including Jose Mourinho), every single one of whom have failed to deliver the bounties or even as much as have any real impact on the club. Norwegian Ole ‘Gunnar’ Solskjaer is a former United forward, netting 126 goals in 366 appearances for the club. His exploits also earned him the rather scary nickname of ‘baby-faced-Assassin’. In retrospect, it is also an oxymoron, so you never know. He is expected to run the show at Old Trafford for now, until the board can appoint a successor to Mourinho’s three year ‘reign-of-terror’. The current favorites’ to replace him would be Spurs’ manager Mauricio Pochettino and former Madrid superstar Zinedine Zidane.
When it comes to United’s actual players, we saw a flickering shade of the Reds of yore in their first game post the Mourinho ‘era’ with their resounding 5-1 win over Cardiff this weekend immediately followed by 3–1 and 4-1 wins over Huddersfield and Bournemouth respectively just a few days later. With Mourinho ousted and gone, it’s a massive opportunity for United’s big signings Sanchez, Pogba and the effervescent Lukaku to step up and regain some lost pride for the club. Moreover, they would always have the services of the younger guns like Rashford, Lingard and Martial. In a recent interview, Lingard talked about Pogba and Solskjaer. He said, “I can definitely, definitely see the Paul I used to know. Ole has given him the license to be free and play his game and do what all of us know he can.” So, if we go by what Lingard has to say, the future bodes well for the Devils.
As far as José Mourinho goes, the hope of another Premier League managerial job seems slim given his consecutive failures at United and a poor last season at Chelsea which saw them spiraling to lose nine out of their last sixteen League games. There are a few Madrid rumors in the air but it all seems pretty bleak as one of ESPN’s pundits puts it, going on to say, “At this point, Mourinho is a damaged brand.” However, with all due respect to Mourinho, he is still one of the greatest managers the world has ever seen, with as many as a whopping twenty-five major honors. So maybe, just maybe, his story doesn’t end here. Who knows, perhaps international management is on the cards as well as he could very likely be the potential successor to Portugal’s Fernando Santos. Only time will tell, whatever that is. As for now his 22.5 million pound payout should keep him fed for a while.
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