Manchester United’s Portuguese head coach Jose Mourinho smiles during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football match Sevilla FC against Manchester United at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Sevilla on February 21, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / JORGE GUERRERO
First came the impassioned defence of his record as Manchester United manager, then a stinging rebuke of his players’ “lack of personality” to meet the demands of the 20-time English champions from Jose Mourinho.
The outspoken Portuguese coach is no stranger to causing controversy, but his astonishing rant aimed at his own squad despite beating Brighton 2-0 in snowy conditions at Old Trafford on Saturday only served to cast more doubt on whether he will be handed a third season in charge.
“My calculation is that without pressure, they don’t perform well,” argued Mourinho, when questioned whether his public criticism could backfire should his players’ react negatively.
“What can I lose? And the ones that are always there are the ones that will always be there. And that is an example of personality.”
United are still reeling from a bitterly disappointing Champions League last 16 exit at the hands of Sevilla.
Mourinho reacted angrily to criticism of his cautious approach in both legs against the Spanish side, who are languishing in fifth in La Liga, with a 12-minute rant in his pre-match press conference on Friday.
In seven seasons under four different managers, Mourinho pointed out that United’s best performance in the Champions League has been one quarter-final appearance, and the club’s highest finish in the Premier League since legendary former manager Alex Ferguson retired was fourth.
Mourinho’s actions spoke almost as loudly as his words. Two of United’s biggest signings of his time in charge, Alexis Sanchez and Paul Pogba, were dropped and not even introduced as substitutes against Brighton.
Other than Nemanja Matic, who set up Romelu Lukaku’s opener before heading home United’s second himself, Mourinho lambasted what he described as a “lack of personality, lack of class and lack of desire.”
New contract no guarantee
As recently as January, Mourinho was handed a new contract till 2020 by the United hierarchy.
However, history from Mourinho’s nomadic coaching career shows that is no guarantee of a long-term stay.
Mourinho signed a new deal in August 2015 of his second spell in charge of Chelsea, only to be sacked four months later after a disastrous start to their Premier League title defence.
His latest outburst struck a similar tone to his final match in charge of Chelsea when, after a 2-1 defeat at Leicester, he claimed his work on the training ground had been “betrayed” by players not following instructions.
Like his time at Real Marid, Mourinho’s second departure at Chelsea came in a turbulent third season once his message to a talented squad began to fall on deaf ears.
Worryingly for United, Mourinho’s reserves already appear to be running low in the final stages of his second campaign, when he has traditionally been most successful.
Unlike both spells at Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, there will be no title to crown his second season.
Despite sitting second in the Premier League, United trail local rivals Manchester City by 16 points in the Premier League, and could even face the indignity of seeing City seal the league when they face each other in three weeks’ time.
As British newspaper The Telegraph wrote on Sunday, “a trophy could still be salvaged from the wreckage” in the FA Cup.However, that didn’t help Mourinho’s predecessor Louis Van Gaal, who won the FA Cup in his final game in charge only to be soon dismissed.
“When a manager publicly challenges his players in a bid to defend their own reputation, it is their reaction that decides whether it was a blunder or not,” added the Telegraph’s match report.
If Mourinho can’t get his players back on side, and the likes of Sanchez and Pogba performing on the pitch in the final few weeks of the season, the United board have a huge decision to make on whether to persist for a third act.