Chelsea were right to sack Jose Mourinho – and Manchester United should steer clear of him despite Louis van Gaal’s continued struggles, writes Mark Holmes.
MOURINHO HAS ONLY HIMSELF TO BLAME
It may only have been against Sunderland, but their performance in their 3-1 win over Sunderland on Saturday added weight to the belief of many that Chelsea’s players hadn’t been putting in the maximum amount of effort for Jose Mourinho.
Chelsea may well have won the game with Mourinho still in charge, of course – all three of their goals owed as much to incompetent defending as anything else – but that Pedro was one of four Blues players in the box when scoring the second goal hinted at an added enthusiasm for the cause.
Michael Emenalo made it clear that the Chelsea board blamed Mourinho rather than the players for the poor results this season, but that desire to get into the box is among the things that several members of the squad have appeared to lack at times. It’s very difficult to prove or even quantify, but the supporters’ reaction to each goal suggested they have picked up on that lack of desire, too. You might say it was ‘palpable’.
However, even if some of Chelsea’s players really were putting in less than 100% under Mourinho, that is not to say that the manager was not to blame.
It is hard not to feel sympathy for Mourinho if the problem, as has been suggested, was that certain players did not want to put in the defensive work being asked of them, but the simple solution to that would have been to remove the one or two bad apples from the team. The fact that no amount of changes to the team brought about an improvement in performances suggests there was a much wider problem than a disagreement between Mourinho and one or two problems.
Players should follow the instructions of their manager and put in 100% effort regardless of whether they agree with said instructions, but ultimately there is only one man to blame if there was indeed widespread revolt in the Chelsea camp. In any profession, it is a key part of a manager’s job to keep his staff happy and motivated; Mourinho clearly did not do that this season.
“I never liked the kind of leadership where the boys say: He’s my leader, I have to respect him. I prefer them to say: I respect him and he’s my leader.”
Mourinho has always prided himself on his man-management. He was one of the boys. He wanted to be a man that players followed not because they had to but because they wanted to.
For whatever reason, Mourinho lost that respect in the Chelsea dressing room. Supporters are certainly right to feel anger towards some of the players, but Mourinho’s only complaint can be with himself for abandoning the man-management principles that have served him so well.
VAN GAAL MUST GO – BUT MOURINHO’S NOT THE MAN
With Mourinho looking for a quick return to management and Louis van Gaal continuing to face criticism as manager of Manchester United, there is speculation that the change at Stamford Bridge could soon be followed by one at Old Trafford.
Only a fortnight to the day since it was widely reported that the United hierarchy was happy with the progress made under Van Gaal and would like him to extend his contract, The Sun, Daily Mirror and Guardian all report that the Dutchman is likely to be sacked if he cannot inspire an immediate upturn in fortunes at Stoke City on Boxing Day and then against Chelsea two days later.
A lot has happened in that fortnight, of course, with United knocked out of the Champions League and then slipping out of the top four of the Premier League courtesy of defeats to Bournemouth and Norwich City.
The Guardian claims the Glazers expected a serious title challenge this season, but the likelihood is that only a fear of missing out on a place in next season’s Champions League would force them into action only two weeks after they were apparently content.
Many of United’s supporters would argue that the style of play alone under Van Gaal is enough reason for a change, but two scrappy 1-0 wins against Stoke and Chelsea would more than likely keep the bean counters at Old Trafford happy. All Van Gaal has to do is keep the team in the top four.
How utterly depressing. They are hardly the only big club struggling to meet expectations this season, but what a fall from grace they have suffered that drearily grinding out enough points to finish fourth would be enough for the owners.
It has become abundantly clear that United are never going to excite nor seriously challenge for major honours under Van Gaal. He was arguably the right man for the job at the time, but he is not the right man any more. The only question is, when do United replace him?
If they do it soon and move for Mourinho, plenty will feel they have a good chance of winning the Premier League title this season. Leicester City are nine points ahead and could well be more by the new year, but Mourinho is proven at making impressive immediate impacts on teams.
However, there is an obvious possibility that belief in Mourinho, perhaps even self-belief, may have been knocked by what has happened at Chelsea this season. He would be taking the job with question marks over his ability; it would be a big test of his character to instantly get United’s players to buy fully into his way of doing things.
Whether Mourinho is capable of making a lasting impact, meanwhile, is a question which remains unanswered. His style of play could hardly be described as swashbuckling either so United would be taking a chance on him delivering immediate success to justify the appointment.
Furthermore, and some would argue most pertinently of all, Mourinho’s behaviour away from the pitch this season will have done very little to convince the likes of Bobby Charlton that the Portuguese has the right personality to manage the club.
It seems a bizarre thing to write about the man that won the Premier League title only seven months ago, but it is much easier to make a case for United not appointing Mourinho than it is giving him the job.