Advertisement

Problems at Manchester United run much deeper than Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho is the latest manager to be sacked by Manchester United. Credit: PA

To the casual onlooker it might appear that Jose Mourinho was first seduced and then poisoned by English football.

He came with an infectious smile and a charismatic turn of phrase; he leaves 14 years later wearing a fixed frown and confrontation running through his veins.

He may have a trunk full of cash as he heads back down the M6 to London, however not only has the serial winner's badge rusted away during his time in the north but That Mourinho Glow has dimmed to Bible black.

Manchester United is probably the biggest football beast there is and it proved too big even for Jose, but then he is only the latest man tamed by what now seems to be an impossible task. Now is the time to ask why.

It is no secret that the relationship with his star player had broken down - Paul Pogba's disrespectful but quickly deleted social media post following Mourinho's sacking proved just how severe those fault lines were.

And it wasn't just Pogba - Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw and others were all publicly humiliated by Mourinho.

But the malaise spread much wider than the dressing room, or to be more accurate, much higher. All the way to the boardroom.

Commercially Manchester United are in a strong position. Credit: PA

Tuesday's denouement can be traced back to the summer when moody Mourinho was happy to tell anyone who would listen that the club had blocked his plans to bolster United's defence.

It was clear then that if Mourinho wasn't getting what he wanted, there was trouble ahead.

Was it Ed Woodward, the executive vice chairman who was putting obstacles in his way? The same Ed Woodward who on Wednesday backed the under-performing squad ahead of the man leading them. And the same Ed Woodward who has failed United with his post-Sir Alex Ferguson succession planning.

To be fair to United's hierarchy, Mourinho has had funds - £400m to be precise.

But it does feel the likes of Sanchez and Fred were sanctioned by the board with the brand in mind first, and the team a very poor second.

It's only five years since Ferguson quit, but it seems much, much longer.

Since then, Moyes, Van Gaal and now Mourinho have all been hired, have failed and been fired by Woodward.

For context, Moyes' contract would still have six months left to run, if it had done its course. That's the cycle United are trapped in.

Manchester United Executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward. Credit: PA

Conversely, its commercial departments have never been in ruder health, and there lies the problem.

Business planning and financial targets have sidelined the football.

Innovative and successful off the pitch, United have been staid and defensive on it.

Tuesday's announcement of an interim manager (almost certainly Ole Gunnar Solskjær) until the end of the season at least suggests Woodward knows he and the club cannot afford a fourth failure, so are taking time before anointing a permanent successor.

Whoever it ends up being has his work cut out.