It’s been about 48 hours since news of José Mourinho’s firing by Manchester United made the headlines. Looking at the stories that have made news since then, it appears firing was question of “when” and not “if”. If you think firing José would solve club’s problems, then you’re being naïve. Manchester United’s problems are dipper than the managerial appointment. Firing José is going to give temporary breathing space. Hopefully this time would be utilized to address underlying issues. There are some major changes required at the club.
When Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge of the club, he had a simple rule while running the club. On footballing matters, he would have final say and authority. Nobody at club would question him on that. When Sir Alex retired in 2013, that left a massive void. During his 26 years, he was in charge everything when it came to football. His responsibilities included First Team, Academy, youth team and reserves players. He knew every player club at the club across age groups. Scouting reports on possible targets would end up on his desk. He was responsible for player recruitment, contract renewal and deciding in and out of the club. What Sir Alex did at club is extra ordinary. Ideally United hierarchy should have planned transition for post Sir Alex era in much better way. David Gill retired at same time. That made situation worse.
In today’s day and era, it’s not possible for a single man to look at all footballing matters. All the leading clubs have now divided the responsibilities. First Team Coach is responsible for First Team only. Academy coaches are responsible for academy and youth team. Reserve Team coach manages reserve team affairs. Then there is a Director of Football who is responsible for scouting strategy and player recruitment. All the coaches for different teams report to him. Director of Football is in charge of Footballing affairs. During David Moyes, LvG and José’s era part of these responsibilities felt on the Manager. Ed Woodward was left to deal with recruitment. Evidence of last 5 years suggests, he is a great businessman and football is not his cup of team. If media reports are to be believed, Manchester United are going towards this structure and appoint a Director of Football. This has been long overdue. In hindsight, Manchester United should have appointed a Director of Football when Sir Alex retired.
During Sir Alex years, there was a simple rule at Manchester United. As THE Manager he was the most important person at the club. During José Mourinho’s 3rd season that was not the case. Paul Pogba and his agent threw too many tantrums. Pogba should have been shipped off before start of this season. He challenged Manager’s authority more than once and was allowed to get away with it. During Sir Alex year’s, David Beckham’s off the field charisma was creating problems for Manager. Sir Alex decided to sell Beckham to Real Madrid. Then Manchester United CEO Peter Kenyon happily accepted a check for £25 Million from Real Madrid and Beckham was off. That was not the only time Fergie sold a player to protect the club. Jaap Stam, Rudd van Nistelrooy and Roy Keane were also shown the exit door when they didn’t follow Manager’s orders. This ensured Manger had ultimate power and authority.
Steve McClaren who was Sir Alex’s assistant during famous 1999 treble season tells a story about Sir Alex’s work ethic. Day after teams return to Manchester from Barcelona after famous Champions League against Bayern Munich, Sir Alex was busy planning for next season. He was working on transfer strategy. Fergie’s mantra for success was simple. You need to keep improving continuously. There is no place for complacency. After last season’s 2nd place finish; as a Manchester United fan, I was happy. But we all knew United needed to spend heavily and invest in certain areas of the squad to compete with noisy neighbors. But José didn’t get required backing from the Board. Defensively this United side is simply awful. At half way stage this season, they’ve already conceded more goal than entire of last season. José wanted to address this situation by singing couple of defenders. Harry Maguire was top of wanted list. But transfer fee in region of £75 Million resulted in no deal. This promoted José to question scouts about why player with such amazing potential was not on Manchester United’s radar during his Hull City days. Apparently, this bruised some egos. In my opinion, José’s question is very valid one. During 2012 – 13 season, before game against Swansea city Sir Alex was asked about Swansea’s prolific scorer Michu. Fergie’s response was very simple to José’s. He said, I need to talk to my scouting department on how United missed player of his calibre. Fergie’s remarks were taken in proper context, but when José gave same feedback, it was dubbed as confrontation.
There is absolutely no doubt, José is a very controversial character. When things don’t go his way, he is very difficult person to deal with. He is very passionate and driven person. He doesn’t like to be second best to anyone. I like that quality and I always supported him for that attitude. But during his tenure he had too many fights and burnt too many bridges. This caused lot of friction in that Manchester United dressing room. Easiest and relatively cheapest way to fix this problem was firing José. That’s what United did. Good thing about firing José was its timing. Unlike in case of Moyes and LvG, (when decision to fire was taken after Top 4 became mathematically impossible), United didn’t wait that long this time. They also ensured the decision was communicated to the Manager first before things got leaked to media.
Glazer family who own Manchester United, treat the club as a business. They’ve done an amazing job with commercial success. They don’t care about footballing side. Rumour is firing José cost Manchester United nearly £15 Million in compensation. After the news of sacking, Manchester United stock (listed on New York Stock Exchange) jumped more than 5%. That jump added nearly £100 million in clubs market cap. For money loving Glazers, the profit of nearly £80 Million is probably more satisfying than anything else….