Jose Mourinho and Man United on collision course as tensions mount ahead of transfer window
Manchester United, reeling from defeat at Liverpool and handed a daunting Champions League draw, appear to have hit resistance from Jose Mourinho over attempts to modernise the club and hire a director of football.
Following the dismal 3-1 Premier League defeat at Liverpool, United have lurched further into crisis and are in serious danger of not finishing in the top four and, thus, not qualifying for next season's Champions League.
There was dismay at not just the result, but the manner of it. Record signing Paul Pogba remained on the substitutes' bench and Mourinho praised a number of Liverpool players, signed since he took over at United, after the match. He has continually hit out at United's recruitment strategy.
United are 19 points behind leaders Liverpool, but, more significantly, trail fourth-placed Chelsea by 11 points after just 17 matches - their poorest start to a campaign since 1990.
Mourinho has said the best they can hope for is to finish fourth, which would be regarded as a minimum requirement by the club.
If United miss out on the Champions League, in which they were paired with Paris St-Germain in the round-of-16 draw, it would be a major surprise if Mourinho survived as manager.
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There are precedents. The club sacked Mourinho’s predecessors, David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, after failing to qualify for the Champions League.
It would, however, be expensive. Mourinho signed a contract extension with United in January, taking him up to the end of the 2019-20 season, and although failure to qualify for the Champions League would result in him being due less compensation should he be fired, it would still equate to a year’s salary, about £15m (€16.7m).
United have no plans to replace Mourinho at present and remain supportive. However, there is growing frustration at United, with one discussion centring on whether Mourinho wants the club to appoint a director of football and what the remit would be.
United want to make the appointment, which would be the first in their history, and accept that it is now a necessary role and they are out of step with their rivals.
While Mourinho is not believed to be against the idea there is a belief that it will be hard to make an appointment that he will be satisfied with.
It may mean that United have to delay their plans until Mourinho leaves – whether that is next summer, or even before then, or when his deal (which he has the option to extend for another 12 months) – expires in 2020.
It is even understood that some candidates to be director of football are unsure as to whether they would want to take over at present.
There is also continuing tension between Mourinho and United over whether signings will be made when the January transfer window opens in less than two weeks.
The manager is still pushing for a big-name central defender, but the likelihood of persuading a club to sell in January is slim. It makes for an uncomfortable stasis.
United went out at the same stage of the Champions League last season, to Sevilla, and PSG, who finished above Liverpool in their group, will be regarded as more formidable opponents.
An added ingredient is that Mourinho has been strongly linked with PSG in the past – with his agent, Jorge Mendes, having held discussions in 2016 before he joined United – although the French giants insist they have no interest in him. (© The Daily Telegraph, London)