'The briefing undermined Mourinho' - Gary Neville accuses CEO Ed Woodward as tensions rise at Man United
Manchester United legend Gary Neville believes the club's CEO Ed Woodward has undermined manager Jose Mourinho in recent weeks and questioned whether their relationship can be revived after a turbulent few weeks.
Mourinho suggested he should no longer be called United manager after he was not given the backing he demanded as no central defenders arrived at the club in the summer transfer window.
After Sunday's 3-2 defeat against Brighton, Woodward was spotted in his director's box seat after the game looking glum, with the Manchester Evening News reporting that he then went into the dressing room to talk to players.
Now Neville has told Sky Sports that Woodward's actions have added to the pressure mounting on Mourinho, with a media briefing the day before the opening game of the season spelling out the reasons why the club ignore the advice of their manager over transfer targets.
"It's painful to think how things have panned out at Manchester United over the past five or six years," Neville told Sky Sports.
"If Ed Woodward was going to doubt Jose Mourinho, the time to doubt him was at the point whereby he should have said I'm not giving you a new contract last January.
"The minute he gave him a contract extension - which some may say was unnecessary halfway through a season - believing in the manager and showing the faith, he had to then buy him the centre-backs. He had to get Maguire and Alderweireld because they wouldn't have made those mistakes at Brighton.
"Irrespective of the manager of Manchester United, they need new centre-backs. Alderweireld and Maguire would have been good options, regardless of whether it cost £120m, that's what you have to do when you're backing Jose Mourinho.
"If you're going to doubt him, the time to do that was last January where you could have assessed his contract at the end of the season. From a board perspective, it has been messy over the last couple of weeks.
"I think of the briefing Ed Woodward gave journalists ahead of the Leicester game, where he explained why United weren't going to buy centre-backs and why Jose was not being backed, trying to justify to the media why he's not backed his manager. It's too late for that, Mourinho has already been given a contract extension - back him until the end.
"My view would be he has to stay to the very end of that contract and be backed to the end of the contract. The briefing undermined Jose Mourinho, there's no doubt about that. Jose knows that and he's not going to take any messing around from anybody.
"The CEO sat in his spot for two minutes after the game on Sunday in what I can only describe as something I don't want to see the CEO of Manchester United do. At the end of the game, stand up, go and shake the opposition CEO's hand, tell him well done and that you'll see him later in the season, smile and be bigger than anything.
"All I could see was a show of frustration, or something that could also be interpreted as another show of dissent. At the moment there is definitely angst between the club and Jose, who announced last week on Friday Night Football that he might as well be called a head coach. What he was basically saying is that he's been told to work with the players he's been given.
"Don't get me wrong, the club have supported Jose Mourinho and given him a lot of money, but you cannot go half-hearted. I gave the analogy that if you're going to build a house, you've got to finish it, and they had to finish it if they gave him that contract extension in January."
Neville's fellow Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher suggested Mourinho may do well to see out the season as United manager, ahead of next Monday's game against Tottenham at Old Trafford.
"I'm not jumping to a knee-jerk reaction because Manchester United lost a game away from home," said Carragher.
"But after what's happened in the summer, if performances like that continue, I don't think Jose Mourinho will be the manager of Manchester United next season - he may not be manager at some time this season.