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Rise and fall of ‘The Special One’ at Old Trafford

By Gowon Akpodonor with agency reports
19 December 2018   |   4:03 am
There was the luminous smile he wore when Jose Mourinho started at Manchester United, winning the Europa League, League Cup and Community Shield in his first season.

Jose Mourinho, Paul Pogba and other players when the going was good at Manchester United

There was the luminous smile he wore when Jose Mourinho started at Manchester United, winning the Europa League, League Cup and Community Shield in his first season. That was at the end of the 2016-17 football season.Then, there was the distraught face, as ‘The Special One’ stepped out of Old Trafford ground yesterday, after he was called to a face-to-face meeting with executive vice chairman, Ed Woodward, where he was told he had been fired.

The mind cannot conjure up an image of the triumphant Mourinho without also recalling the tainted ‘Special One’. From his sack at the Stamford Bridge seven months after he led Chelsea to the Premier League title in 2015 to another anguish at Old Trafford despite taking United to the knockout stage in the Champions League remains a sour point in Mourinho’s coaching career.

Manchester United officially confirmed the news of Mourinho’s sack at 9:46am yesterday, but the Portuguese will receive a £22.5million pay-off.

Mourinho was appointed manager of Man United ahead of the 2016-17 season, replacing Louis van Gaal as Red Devils boss. United had endured a difficult number of years since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, with David Moyes and Van Gaal both struggling to replicate the success achieved under the legendary boss.

With Mourinho’s track record at Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid, he was deemed to be the perfect candidate to revive the club’s fortunes, and his first season yielded three pieces of silverware:  the Community Shield, the League Cup and the Europa League.Some Manchester United fans celebrated him as a legend of the sport. Mourinho merited it, going by his record before things stared falling apart at Man United. He played 93 Premier League matches, won 50, drew 26 and lost 17. In the Europa contest, Mourinho played 15 games, won 10, drew three and lost two, while in the Champions League, he played 14 matches, won eight, drew two and lost four.

In the FA Cup, ‘The Special One’ played 10 games, won eight, drew 0 and lost two. In the League Cup, he played 10 matches, won seven, drew 1 and lost two, just as he played one Community Shield game, which he won. Mouringho also played one UEFA Super Cup match and won.

But his legacy and good name was ‘stripped’ from him when the club finished last season empty-handed after losing the FA Cup final to Chelsea and finishing distant runners-up to Man City in the league. Before his sack yesterday, Mourinho’s campaign with Man United this season was beleaguered by problems, though ‘The Special One’ remains one of the best football managers the world has even seen.

Mourinho has won eight league titles in his managerial career and he has done so in four different countries: Portugal, England, Italy and Spain. He has won a total of 13 domestic trophies and is a two-time winner of both the Champions League and Europa League. Since 2003, the Portuguese has amassed 25 trophies as a manager.

Mourinho was pictured arriving at the training ground at 9am yesterday, beaming with smile. He never anticipated his sack until the bombshell came after a face-to-face meeting with Ed Woodward. He was sacked at Chelsea on December 17, 2015, while his sack at Old Trafford came exactly three years after (December 18, 2018).The club released a statement on its website which 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’s two-and-a-half year reign came to an end following the club’s worst start to a top-flight season since 1990. His last game was a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday. 

Sportsmail understands that club officials agreed that any progress under Mourinho had stalled this season and that, importantly, a number of the club’s exciting youth prospects were not developing under him.The decision to sack the 55-year-old was made on Monday night, with the club well aware that players were stalling on new contracts because of him.

It is understood that Mourinho’s refusal to use Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial at Anfield was crucial to the decision to sack him, with the club unable to sit back and watch millions wiped off players’ values while they rotted on the bench. 

Mourinho had also lost the dressing room, having fallen out with a number of the club’s top stars.The players reacted to a recent tabloid story about 90 per cent of the players wanting the manager out by joking with each other: ‘Who are the 10 per cent that want him to stay?’

United hope to announce a caretaker manager to see out the rest of the season within 48 hours. Current assistant Michael Carrick is not expected to take the role but sources say the appointment will be a man with strong links to the club.

It is understood that Laurent Blanc, the former Manchester United defender and one-time France and Paris Saint-Germain manager, is a front-runner to take over at Old Trafford as caretaker boss.Mourinho is a good friend of club legend Sir Alex Ferguson, and is available immediately having been out of work for the last two years. 

Mourinho had often suggested he had not been backed sufficiently in the transfer market. However, United officials did not share that view. Mourinho brought in 11 players, understood to have been his choices, at a cost of around £400m and those in charge believe he was given every opportunity to succeed. There was also considerable friction over United’s plans to bring in a director of football or technical director, plans they will continue to push on with.

He also had plenty of issues with Paul Pogba, and the midfielder was quick to take to Instagram in the aftermath of the news of the sack yesterday morning.The Frenchman posted a cheeky picture – which has now been deleted – in which he is glancing at the camera, alongside the words: ‘Caption this.’

The games against Liverpool and Manchester City, in particular, this season have exposed the paucity of Mourinho’s football compared to his main rivals, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp. While Woodward waited until David Moyes and Louis van Gaal could no longer mathematically finish in the top-four to wield the axe, the United chief has decided to sack Mourinho while there is still enough time to retrieve the situation. He becomes the third manager to be fired since Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.

Woodward and Mourinho got on well, with the former desperate for the appointment to work out. Mourinho was also aware that football isn’t Woodward’s game, and felt he needed a football head taking care of that side of the club. 

Mourinho’s fall-out with Pogba has had a toxic effect on the club with United’s record signing failing to get off the bench for the last two games. He has fallen out with a number of other players too. Following Mourinho’s exit, he will now move out of his Lowry Hotel base after staying there for 895 days during his time at the club. 

His family base remained in the capital as his daughter — Matilde-graduated from London’s University of Arts in the summer and his son — Jose Mourinho Jnr — played for Fulham until April 2017. He had a long-term contract but still decided to remain in a hotel rather than purchase a Cheshire mansion, like many involved with United.

Buying or renting a house never appeared to Mourinho, as he didn’t see the logic in living in a huge mansion on his own. He isn’t a man for household chores, and cooking and cleaning were all taken care of for him at the Lowry.A Riverside Suite is priced at £600 on their website, which means Mourinho has shelled out around £537,000 since moving to Manchester if he has been paying the average online price.

In the aftermath of his sacking yesterday, fans and celebrities alike were quick to react to the news on social media.Manchester City fan Liam Gallagher was among them, writing that he was ‘gutted’ Mourinho’s time at Old Trafford had come to an end.One United fan noted that it was the ‘best Christmas gift’ the club’s fans could get, while another joked that Tottenham fans would be guarding their manager Pochettino closely over the next few days.

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