The fallout between Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba is in the public domain. A string of veiled remarks reached a crescendo on Tuesday when the Frenchman was stripped of the vice-captaincy, and there’s now footage of a terse exchange between the pair in training.
Did the midfielder share a look of sheer bewilderment with a member of Mourinho’s backroom team? Did Mourinho banish Pogba from first-team training at the end of the clip? This video already merits a prominent spot alongside Kevin Keegan’s meltdown and Rafa Benitez’s facts rant in the Premier League annals.
The senior players at Manchester United are apparently “angry” at Mourinho’s treatment of Pogba, a development that only strengthens the case that the manager should be the one to leave Old Trafford. However, their feud is not the only reason the decorated handler should be fired.
Related: Why Mourinho must be sacrificed amid ongoing power struggle with Pogba
Here are four other Mourinho missteps that should lead to his dismissal:
Treatment and stagnation of playing staff
The way Mourinho has dealt with players like Chris Smalling, Anthony Martial, and Luke Shaw has drawn criticism. The latter – a youngster who has dealt with unfortunate and lengthy spells in the treatment room – was publicly condemned for being “a long way behind” his teammates in terms of commitment, focus and ambition, and even had his footballing intellect questioned.
Martial was also reportedly and controversially fined for not informing United of his whereabouts while witnessing the birth of his child in the summer.
Lambasting and treating players in that manner can cripple their confidence, and it creates divides in the camp while colleagues rally to support their teammates.
Mourinho’s questionable management and oft-derided tactics may be responsible for players stagnating under his watch. Martial, Pogba, Shaw, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and plenty more have shown no discernible improvement since Mourinho was unveiled in 2016.
Vanity buys that don’t fit in
Amid interest from a host of leading clubs, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and Mourinho flexed their financial muscles to complete a then-world record £89-million swoop for Pogba in the summer of 2016. When Pogba arrived, Mourinho seemed unsure of what to do with him. The player’s virtuosity has never fit well in Mourinho’s uncompromising system.
Then United signed another poor fit. Manchester City were chasing Alexis Sanchez for some time, so when United brokered a deal for him in January 2018, it felt like a statement of intent. That statement now rings hollow, with Sanchez ineffectively toiling in a position where United already had a surplus of options in Martial, Rashford, and Lingard. Sanchez is paid more than anyone else in the league at £500,000 a week.
Making a marquee purchase can appease fans, but the goodwill soon recedes when the new buy doesn’t suit the manager’s approach and turns into a costly flop.
There should be fears that Fred falls into this category. The Brazilian midfielder was drawing the attention of Manchester City in the middle of last season, perhaps forcing United to rush a summer move for him. Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera, the strangely exiled Spaniard who was named the club’s Player of the Year for 2016-17, would have sufficed at the base of midfield, with Scott McTominay – a player Mourinho unashamedly identified as his teacher’s pet last season – in reserve.
Dull football not producing results
The majority of Manchester United fans at Old Trafford were raised on carb-filled diets of flamboyant forwards such as Eric Cantona, explosive counter-attacks spearheaded by stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, and midfielders and defenders that evoked fear across Europe.
What a contrast to the turgid, unadventurous football that’s been on display since Mourinho took over. Players stick to their conservative roles, simply waiting for the opposition to make a mistake. If that doesn’t happen, Marouane Fellaini is thrown up front. Fans are starved of entertainment, and triumphs in the Europa League and League Cup are merely consolation prizes for a club of United’s stature.
And it’s even worse for supporters when they look across town or travel west along the M62. Manchester City and Liverpool, United’s hated enemies, look set to compete at the top of English football for this season at the very least, and they’ll do so while playing some of the most aesthetically pleasing football on the globe. Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have improved and molded players for their respective scuttling schematics, and they will present insurmountable challenges for United to overcome unless there are drastic changes in Stretford.
Threat to United’s reputation
“A United manager wouldn’t do that,” Sir Bobby Charlton told The Guardian’s Jamie Jackson in late 2012. “Mourinho is a really good coach but that’s as far as I would go really.”
The club ambassador and national icon was apparently instrumental in ensuring David Moyes rather than Mourinho succeeded Sir Alex Ferguson as manager in 2013. Charlton was put off by antics that could have harmed the proud traditions of United, and the 1966 World Cup winner viewed Mourinho’s eye gouge on then-Barcelona boss Tito Vilanova when in charge of Real Madrid in 2011 as particularly distasteful.
Mourinho’s behavior this season has corroborated Charlton’s doubts from nearly six years ago. There have been wild-eyed calls for respect from Mourinho in a press conference, more public denigration of players, and now a spat with Pogba that threatens to shake the Portuguese’s regime to rubble. If what’s happened in Mourinho’s past is any indication, it will get worse until United and the manager go separate ways.
One embittered coach won’t ruin Manchester United’s reputation as one of the most powerful sports clubs in the world, but Mourinho is single-handedly making Old Trafford a less desirable destination. It’s a place where promising footballers like Victor Lindelof can be signed and then forgotten, where players will be treated roughly with little explanation, and where the football is drab by comparison to Premier League rivals.