Jose Mourinho seeks public backing from Manchester United board as Old Trafford future remains in balance
Jose Mourinho is seeking the public backing of the Manchester United board this week as the manager’s future remains in the balance.
The manager is not in immediate danger of the sack – it seems – and his position has been strengthened a little by the events of the last few days with one of the agents of Zidane Zidane, regarded by many as the favourite to succeed Mourinho, distancing his client.
Alain Migliaccio was quoted in the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche as saying: “I don’t think he’ll go to work in England, as it is not compatible with his style or approach to football. I discussed it with him and the idea really doesn’t attract him at all. He has chosen to take a sabbatical year and won’t change his mind on that.”
That view does tally with what sources close to Zidane are briefing: that he is unsure about the Premier League and certainly the prospect of taking over a team during a campaign should United eventually decide to part company with Mourinho.
At the same time it is clear that United have not sounded out any candidates at present and are hoping that Mourinho can turn things around and remain – at least – until the end of the season.
A dramatic 3-2 comeback victory over Newcastle United in the league on Saturday was followed by Mourinho claiming there was a “manhunt” against him.
He also revealed that he was reassured in a text message from executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to ignore reports that he would be sacked whatever the result against Newcastle.
According to sources it is understood that Mourinho wants that reassurance to be made public – with a vote of confidence in him – but it is not United’s style, or that of any big club, to make such a move and he knows that. Privately senior figures at United continue to insist Mourinho has their support.
The United hierarchy, led by the Glazer family, have a long-held policy of not speaking publically about club matters. It is unlikely they will alter this stance with the stock answer, usually, to say: “business as usual”. It raises the question of what is Mourinho’s approach and endgame?
Mourinho has a contract until June 30 2020 but there is an acceptance that results need to improve as well as an improvement in the toxic atmosphere around the club and a disillusioned dressing room.
United also face a tough run of fixtures in a three-week period after the international break with Chelsea away in the league followed by Juventus as home in the Champions League.
They then have a home league game against Everton, are away to high-flying Bournemouth before travelling to Turin to face Juventus. After that they face Manchester City away. It could be a defining sequence of fixtures by mid-November.
United are second in their Champions League group and if they were at risk of not progressing – Valencia are also in Group H – or if they fell further behind in the fight to finish in the Premier League’s top four then Mourinho would struggle to survive.
Neither does the Newcastle result mask the problems with Mourinho again bemoaning the lack of quality he has in central defence – in his opinion – with Eric Bailly suffering the humiliation of being substituted after just 19 minutes with Newcastle winning 2-0 and Scott McTominay taken off at half-time.
The club – and Mourinho – will have noted the fans turning on the board during the game and the pointed references also made by former player Gary Neville about the hierarchy and Woodward in particular.
Juan Mata, who replaced Bailly and scored United’s first goal that led to the comeback, said that the fans do not "deserve everything that is going on". The Spaniard said he also hoped the Newcastle result would give the team a mental lift.
"It was special," the attacking midfielder said. "We were losing 2-0, they created even more chances to score more goals and confidence levels were low. We needed to change something and when you have nothing to lose you just throw yourself blindly, let's say. You push even more.
"We couldn't afford another defeat, we couldn't afford another disappointment, especially for the fans. I think they saw today we tried everything, and we came back and from the mental point of view it's a very important three points."
Old Trafford was far more vocal in the second-half as United fans stuck with their team and, on the whole, under-fire Mourinho. "They pushed us," Mata said. "They helped us to go more, to try more, to give this 50 minutes more and I'm very happy for them.
"I am very happy for the team, for us, but especially for the fans because they don't deserve everything that is going on, so they deserve to see a team like today. We felt that if we scored it was not impossible, especially at Old Trafford.
If you score once you can score a few goals in some minutes; I've seen Manchester United doing that a lot of times over the years and today we did it.”
Mata added: "I will say that today the victory is a pride victory. I felt that on the pitch, I did not want to feel another sadness feeling, another disappointment feeling."