Friday 28 July 2017

Who is the mole leaking anti-Mourinho stories at Manchester United?

Jose Mourinho. Photo: Reuters
Jose Mourinho. Photo: Reuters
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

So who is the Manchester United mole leaking negative stories about manager Jose Mourinho?

There was always going to be a huge fall-out following United’s 4-0 Premier League hammering at Chelsea on Sunday, but few would have expected the torrent of inflammatory stories that have added to the suspicion that Mourinho is struggling to establish his authority at Old Trafford.

It is hard to imagine that a coach who has brought success to every club he has managed would be plunged into this kind of crisis so soon after landing the golden prize of the Manchester United hot-seat, yet the media coverage in the days since his Stamford Bridge humbling suggests there has been an orchestrated campaign to fan the flames of frustration simmering around his feet.

First there were the newspaper reports claiming Mourinho had told United captain Wayne Rooney he would need to leave United if he wanted regular football, with the bold claims delivered in a manner that suggests this was not another of those wild tabloid rumours.

Then we had the intriguing tale claiming senior members of Louis van Gaal’s coaching staff at United last season has big doubts over Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s ability to make his mark in the Premier League, in a story that did little to bolster the fragile confidence of the Armenian midfielder who is already being linked with a move away from United in the next transfer window.

Finally and most disturbingly, there was the seemingly well-sourced article in The Times suggesting ‘senior players’ were unhappy with Mourinho’s ‘hands-off’ approach at the training ground, with the suggestion that he leaves the sessions for his coaching staff and rarely talks to the players damning suggestions for a manager of his status.

Mourinho then went public in an interview to admit that he is not enjoying life living in the Lowry Hotel, with the absence of his London-based family in Manchester adding to the suspicion that he is not entirely prepared to settle for the long-term by buying an apartment of his own as he struggles to come to grips with his ‘dream job’.

Alarmingly for United, we don’t have to dip too far back into our memory banks to recall Mourinho being cast as the fall-guy a chaotic script that had a devastating conclusion.

The United manager could be forgiven for feeling an ominous sense of déjà vu surrounding the events of the last 48 hours as he reflects on his downfall at Chelsea, with leaks of discontent about his character, his training methods and his man management all finding a way into the public domain before the first sacking of his career last December.

Yet this current whispering campaign at United will not threaten Mourinho’s future, as a modicum of common sense needs to be applied to a story that is in danger of spiralling out of control.

United’s hierarchy have invested huge sums of money and put their own reputations on the line when they decided to remove Van Gaal and replace him with Mourinho and his highly paid coaching staff just a few short weeks ago.

Yet just nine games into this unpredictable Premier League season, Mourinho is facing the kind of scrutiny he does not appreciate and in the opinion of Republic of Ireland striker John Aldridge, his surly demeanour on the touchline and during his media briefings suggests he has lost some of the spark that once made him great.

“He doesn’t look happy and to be honest has looked bloody miserable at times this season,” Aldridge told Independent.ie, as he reflected on the Mourinho's start to life at United.

“His attitude this season has been the same as it was in the run-up to his sacking at Chelsea and that can rub off on players. He doesn’t seem to be getting any enjoyment out of his work any more and that would be the biggest concern for me if I was a United fan.

“These are early days in the campaign and you tend to change you opinion every week as teams settle down after a summer of changes at so many of the top clubs, but I ask how long does Mourinho need to get United moving forward?

“I’m not sure United’s hierarchy will be too happy if they see many more performances like the one we witnessed against Liverpool or Chelsea and what happens if Mourinho fails to finish ahead of Man City, Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal?

“Those four look to be favourites to finish in the Champions League positions for next season and United look to be a long way off from where they need to be. It doesn’t help that Liverpool are playing fantastic football while Mourinho is promoting misery at United, so he needs to change it around and quickly.”

It seems ridiculous to suggest a manager with Mourinho’s pedigree is being pushed towards a crisis so soon into his reign as United manager, but the vibes around this story are all negative right now.

The trouble makers leaking anti-Mourinho tales to the media are doing a good job of undermining his status as the club’s leader and while he has plenty of time to silence those who question whether his face can ever fit at Old Trafford, the grumblings of discontent are already becoming worryingly loud.

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