Sunday 15 September 2019

United consider Solskjaer in caretaker role after time runs out for Mourinho

The Portuguese’s departure from Old Trafford was announced on Tuesday morning.

Jose Mourinho leaves the Aon Training Complex, Manchester.
Jose Mourinho leaves the Aon Training Complex, Manchester.

By Simon Peach, Press Association Chief Football Writer

Jose Mourinho has been sacked after Manchester United’s patience with the Portuguese ran out, with fans’ favourite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the front runner to take over for the rest of the season.

Appointed to much fanfare in the summer of 2016, the 55-year-old became the first manager in the club’s history to win a major trophy in his maiden season.

Mourinho’s Europa League, EFL Cup and Community Shield successes were followed by runners-up finishes in the Premier League and FA Cup last term, but this campaign things have gone awry from the outset.

United have their worst points return after 17 matches in the Premier League era, with Sunday’s chastening 3-1 loss at Liverpool leaving them 19 points behind their bitter rivals.

They also face an eye-watering 11-point gap to the top four, leading the club to dismiss a manager they handed a contract extension to in January.

Press Association Sport understands United intend to appoint a caretaker boss, with links to the club, as soon as possible – and are strongly considering former striker Solskjaer.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has Premier League experience with Cardiff and is currently Molde’s boss (Danny Lawson/PA).

A club statement on Tuesday morning read: “Manchester United announces that manager Jose Mourinho has left the club with immediate effect.

“The club would like to thank Jose for his work during his time at Manchester United and wish him success in the future.

“A new caretaker manager will be appointed until the end of the current season, while the club conducts a thorough recruitment process for a new, full-time manager.”

Former United defender Laurent Blanc is not believed to be under consideration for a return (Nigel French/PA).

The club have quickly set about finding an interim replacement, with former reserve team coach Solskjaer fitting the profile the club are looking for.

The 45-year-old signed a new three-year deal at Norwegian club Molde at the start of December, extending his second spell at a club he rejoined after an ill-fated spell at the helm of Saturday’s opponents Cardiff.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s former assistant Mike Phelan is reportedly in the frame to work with Solskjaer, with talk of former Paris St Germain manager and United defender Laurent Blanc coming in as interim replacement understood to be wide of the mark.

Michael Carrick took training on Tuesday following Jose Mourinho’s departure (Andrew Matthews/PA).

Training was taken on Tuesday by first-team coach Michael Carrick after Mourinho was told the news by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward in a face-to-face meeting at the Aon Training Complex.

Carrick, Kieran McKenna and goalkeeping coach Emilio Alvarez remain, but the Portuguese’s long-standing coaching staff are understood to have followed him out of the club.

Mourinho left Carrington in a car at around 1225 and was later seen leaving his home at the Lowry hotel, where he was met by cameras and asked how he was feeling. “OK, my friend,” Mourinho said, before posing for pictures.

While the sacking shocked the footballing world, talk of the manager’s impending departure appeared to be building in the United dressing room before the announcement.

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, right, is believed to be the main target to take over at United long-term (Martin Rickett/PA).

Few are understood to be sad to see him leave, both in terms of the club’s players and staff, with Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino believed to be the main target to take the reins next summer.

But first comes a short-term managerial replacement, along with an extensive and thorough process to belatedly rejig United’s background structure.

The club intend to finally bring in a head of football, reporting to executive vice-chairman Woodward, to oversee football operations – a role it is understood Mourinho had a long-standing reluctance about.

But such changes in the long-term interests of the club are why United’s hierarchy felt it was important to act now, with a period as unsettling as it has been disappointing leading to concerns growing over the lack of progress in terms of results and style of play.

Mourinho won the Europa League in his first season as United boss (Nick Potts/PA)

The decision to sack Mourinho will be costly, but that figure pales into insignificance when it comes to the 11 players he was allowed to bring in at a cost of circa £400million.

Paul Pogba was the biggest acquisition during his tenure, signing in 2016 for a then world-record fee. Yet the World Cup-winning France midfielder has regressed under the Portuguese, who has left him on the bench in recent matches as their relationship became further strained.

Pogba posted on social media shortly after the announcement of Mourinho’s sacking, with a picture of himself with a quizzical expression and the words: “Caption this”. The post was subsequently deleted and led to a barrage of criticism, with former United right-back Gary Neville posting “you do one as well!”

While player power is not believed to have had an impact in the decision to fire Mourinho, Pogba is one of a number of players who will be happy with the change at the helm.

The Portuguese has fallen out with a variety of players, while his strong criticism in public and within the dressing room is understood to have annoyed – and at times bemused – his team.

The way younger squad members’ development has been stunted has been a concern to the club, whose tradition in bringing through young talent is as well-documented as their focus on attacking football and silverware.

Mourinho was failing on all three fronts, but had been hopeful of turning things around. However, he is now set to spend Christmas with his family having failed to launch a title challenge – just like predecessors David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal.

Both paid with their jobs after failing to seal Champions League qualification, but this time United have acted early to kick-start their faltering campaign just three years and a day after Mourinho got sacked by Chelsea for the second time.

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