Comment: Renato Sanches' Manchester United snub has cast fresh doubt over Jose Mourinho's future
He was viewed as a signing ordered by the incoming new order at Manchester United, so Bayern Munich’s confirmation that they have won the race to sign Renato Sanches from Benfica will be viewed as the best evidence yet that Jose Mourinho may not be bound for Old Trafford after all.
Several Portuguese newspapers and more than a few ‘sources’ in the UK media were claiming in recent days that 18-year-old Sanches was on his way to Old Trafford in a deal said to be worth as much as €80m, with Mourinho agent Jorge Mendes pulling the strings in a deal that appeared to be evidence of forward planning for his star client ahead of his appointment as Man Utd manager.
However, the stories that Benfica chiefs had already agreed the deal for Sanches to move to Manchester have proved to be misguided, with one of Europe’s rising stars paraded as a Bayern Munich player for the first time amid suggestions that a more realistic fee of €35m has been paid to secure his services.
Throw in the news that Bayern Munich have also confirmed the capture of long-term Manchester United transfer target Mats Hummels and this would appear to represent a pretty miserable day for Old Trafford transfer guru Ed Woodward, an executive who has a long-established reputation for missing out on high profile transfer targets.
United have a familiar PR machine that tends to respond to this kind of setback. It won’t be long now until we hear from Old Trafford ‘sources’ that they were never interested in Sanches and, yet the persistent reports in the Portuguese media back up the belief that Sanches was top of Woodward’s wanted list for this summer.
As was the case in previous years with with Toni Kross, Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas, Arturo Vidal and Hummels, Woodward appears to have failed to seal a deal once again.
Doubts over Woodward’s suitability for his role have been aired time and again, yet it is this former dithering displayed by this former accountant as he considers whether to make a move for Mourinho in recent months that have left an air an uncertainty hovering over Old Trafford.
Woodward’s eagerness to back Van Gaal after he described him as “a genius” not so long ago is admirable in the face of huge dissent from the club’s supporters, yet the evidence of recent weeks backs up a suspicion that the personal desire of one hopelessly incompetent executive is set to undermine United’s efforts for a fourth successive season.
If the trio of agent Mendes, manager Mourinho and superstar whizz-kid Sanches went together in an Old Trafford jigsaw, the latter’s high profile move to Bayern Munich would appear to offer the clearest indication yet that there is NO DEAL in place for Louis van Gaal to be replaced by his former mentor at United this summer and that much has been clear in recent weeks.
The leak from the Mendes camp was evidence that their client had been approached by Paris Saint-Germain to take over from Laurent Blanc last month cemented the theory that they were trying to force United’s hand in the bid to secure Mourinho the Old Trafford post, yet the silence from all sides on this story in the last couple of weeks fuels suggestions that there are, in fact, no talks taking place between Mendes and Woodward over succession plans for Van Gaal.
Should United win their final two Premier League games to secure qualification for next season’s Champions League and win the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace next month, Van Gaal looks set to continue as the club’s manager into the third and final season of his contract.
Sanches may well have been paraded as a new United player on Tuesday morning if Mendes and Mourinho were gearing up for life at Old Trafford next season, yet the story that has dominated the soccer agenda for much of 2016 has suddenly gone very cold.
A fifth place finish for United and FA Cup final defeat will spark the rumours of Mourinho replacing Van Gaal all over again, but the former Chelsea manager currently finds himself in the uncomfortable position of waiting for others to decide his fate.
As things stand right now, Mourinho’s future does not appear to be with Manchester United.