Monday 23 September 2019

Mourinho's deadline over defenders exposed rift with United board

Ultimatum: Mourinho's preferred defenders were regarded as either too expensive, too old or not good enough. Photo: Dan Istitene/Getty Images
Ultimatum: Mourinho's preferred defenders were regarded as either too expensive, too old or not good enough. Photo: Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Jason Burt

Jose Mourinho is believed to have stunned Manchester United last summer by giving them a week to sign a central defender before going public with his unhappiness.

Jose Mourinho is believed to have stunned Manchester United last summer by giving them a week to sign a central defender before going public with his unhappiness.

The now former United manager made the failure to grant his wish a huge issue. It highlighted the tensions at the club and pointed to his eventual departure this week.

United discussed transfer targets with the Portuguese at the end of last season but Mourinho is understood to have then presented them with new names during the summer and set them a deadline. A host of players, Toby Alderweireld, Harry Maguire, Yerry Mina, Jerome Boateng and Diego Godin, were considered by United but dismissed as either too expensive, too old, no better than what the club already had, or a short-term fix.

There was also a sense that United were unsure exactly who Mourinho wanted to bring in, which was frustrating, given the club felt they had run a recruitment process and identified targets for the last window. It is unclear whether another central defender was an initial priority.

Speaking to Manchester United's own TV station in early August, Mourinho said "if we don't make our team better, it will be a difficult season" adding "my CEO (executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward) knows what I want".

Mourinho believes that United were far too slow in trying to make signings, especially last summer when he wanted a squad ready to embark on the tour to the United States, which led to his frustration.

There is also a sense that he did not believe the way United operated, with recruitment responsibilities split but ultimately in the hands of Woodward, made for decisive action.

Mourinho, who returned to his London home after being sacked on Tuesday morning, will fly back to Portugal tomorrow to spend Christmas in his hometown of Setubal.

It is understood that Inter Milan may offer him the chance to return to them should they sack Luciano Spalletti at the end of this season. Spalletti is under huge pressure after Inter failed to progress from their Champions League group, finishing behind Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur.

Mourinho enjoyed huge success at Inter, achieving a remarkable treble in 2009-10 including winning the Champions League.

It does not seem that Mourinho wants to return to another of his former clubs, Real Madrid, to whom he has been strongly linked.

There is an attraction to try to take a job in Germany or France, where he has not previously worked, so he can attempt to become the first manager to win the league in five European countries. However, it is highly unlikely that Bayern Munich or Paris St-Germain would be interested in him.

It is not out of the question that he could be attracted to a job in the United States, a country he enjoys and where he always tries to have pre-season training. Asia might even appeal.

Mourinho issued a statement yesterday about his departure from United, saying he had been "immensely proud" to represent the club and that he had made "friends for life".

The 55-year-old said: "I have been immensely proud to wear the badge of Manchester United since the first day I arrived, and I believe that all the United supporters recognise this. Just as was the case with my previous clubs, I have worked with some wonderful people and I believe that some will be my friends for life.

"I know that you are all aware of my professional principles. Each time a chapter is closed, I show my deepest respect and I don't make any comments about my former colleagues. I hope the media will also respect my position and let me live my normal life until I decide to return to football."

Heart

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who will replace Mourinho until the end of the season will hold his first press conference tomorrow, but yesterday told the club's website: "Manchester United is in my heart and it's brilliant to be coming back in this role. I'm really looking forward to working with the very talented squad we have, the staff and everyone at the club."

Speaking earlier to Molde fans, he said: "In football, you never know what can happen. We get proof of that time after time. This is an opportunity I had to take. I am looking forward to leading Manchester United until the summer."

The Norwegian season begins on March 31, and until Solskjaer returns at the end of United's campaign, his place will be taken by assistant Erling Moe, who has been a successful manager of the club in the past.

The club also confirmed that Mike Phelan, the long-term assistant to Alex Ferguson, would come back to assist Solskjaer.

Phelan had most recently worked as the sporting director at Australian A-League club Central Coast Mariners, where Usain Bolt enjoyed a brief career as a professional footballer.

Telegraph.co.uk

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