In the midst of its worst start to a season in 28 years, Manchester United on Tuesday fired Manager Jose Mourinho. Michael Carrick, who joined the team’s coaching staff after retiring as a player following the 2017-18 season, will serve as caretaker manager until an interim coach can be found from outside the club’s ranks ahead of Saturday’s match at Cardiff City.
According to the Telegraph, former Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a “leading candidate” to succeed Mourinho on a temporary basis. Solskjaer currently is managing Molde in his native Norway, though that country’s professional league is dormant until the season begins in March.
Manchester United has won just seven of its first 17 Premier League games this season and sits in sixth place in the standings, well off the pace set by front-runners Liverpool and Manchester City and 11 points out of fourth place (the top four teams in the Premier League qualify for the Champions League). The final straw was a 3-1 loss to Liverpool on Sunday in which Manchester United conceded 36 shots, its most in a single game since the Premier League began keeping such records in 2003.
One of five managers to have won league titles in four countries, Mourinho joined Manchester United in 2016 after successful runs at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. The arrogant Portuguese legend, who one called himself “a special one” and had a habit of holding up three fingers in front of reporters and fans to remind them of his three Premier League championships, led Manchester United to League Cup and UEFA Europea League titles in his first season but came up empty in his second, and this year’s slow start has come about despite his spending of more than $500 million on 11 players in the transfer market.
One of those players is French midfielder Paul Pogba, who rejoined Manchester United right before Mourinho’s first season with the club after it paid Juventus a then-record $113 million transfer fee. Pogba remained on the bench during Sunday’s loss to Liverpool, and after a 1-1 draw with Wolves earlier this season he told reporters he would like to see Manchester United “attack, attack, attack” in its games at home. Mourinho then stripped Pogba of his second captaincy.
After the news broke Tuesday, Pogba posted a picture of himself with a knowing look on Instagram and wrote “caption this” before deleting it, according to the BBC.
“In addition to the disquiet regarding the side’s stultifying style, there was further disappointment at Mourinho’s development and improvement of United’s younger players,” the Guardian reports. “The club also took into account the growing unhappiness from fans at the direction of the club under Mourinho.”
Statistics back this up. Manchester United has conceded 29 goals in just 17 games this season, one more than it gave up in all of the 2017-18 campaign. It has held an opponent off the scoreboard only twice, with last-place Fulham the only Premier League team to have fewer clean sheets. And Manchester United’s offensive output has paled in comparison to rival Manchester City, which ran away with last season’s Premier League title, finishing 19 points ahead of second-place Manchester United.
The Guardian adds that Mourinho’s buyout will cost Manchester United somewhere around $20 million. Despite his success, Mourinho has yet to complete four consecutive seasons with one club.
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