Manchester United has fired manager Jose Mourinho after two-and-a-half years at the helm of the iconic British soccer team.
“Manchester United announces that manager Jose Mourinho has left the club with immediate effect,” the club’s communications department said in a statement.
The 55-year-old Mourinho took over from Louis van Gaal in May 2016, and led Man United to League Cup, Community Shield, and Europa League titles.
Mourinho, a Portuguese national, leaves Man United on the heels of a bruising defeat at the hands of Liverpool on Dec. 16, leaving Man United in sixth place in the Premier League, a far cry from the club’s glory days.
The crushing 3-1 loss to Liverpool appears to have been the final nail in Mourinho’s coffin.
Former Manchester United player Gary Neville told Sky Sports News that over the past several months, Mourinho clearly faced a downward trajectory.
“The moment earlier on in the season where it was clear the board didn’t want to back a couple of Jose Mourinho’s signings, to be honest at that point you are finished as a manager,” he said, according to LAD Bible.
The club’s statement, unsurprisingly, gave no hint of bad blood.
“The club would like to thank Jose for his work during his time at Manchester United and to wish him success in the future,” the club’s PR department said.
But the crumbling relationship between Mourinho and Man United was no secret.
“What we’ve seen over the last three or four months is this play out in public,” said Neville. “I said after the game at Liverpool on Sunday that Manchester United have been crawling along on their hands and knees minute after minute, hour after hour, match to match for the past few weeks. And it’s been unpleasant, it’s been unsavory.”
“You could see on the pitch it’s impacting the players, who at this moment in time look completely demoralized, some games they look disinterested, some games they look inspired for 20 minutes,” Neville said.
“But the sacking of Jose Mourinho is the result of what happened last summer,” he said, adding, “When Jose came back first day of the pre-season tour and started making complaints in the media you knew that this was going to rumble on and there had to be some sort of control grabbed at that time.”
The Hunt for a Replacement
The soccer world is abuzz with speculation as to who will fill Mourinho’s empty seat.
“A new caretaker manager will be appointed until the end of the current season,” Manchester United said in the statement, “while the club conducts a thorough recruitment process for a new, full-time manager.”
Despite rumors that Mourinho’s former assistant and ex-United captain, Michael Carrick, would take over as caretaker boss, the BBC reported that the honor would fall to neither Carrick nor academy boss Nicky Butt.
The candidate is expected to be drawn from outside the club and, according to some reports, former Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane is being considered for the job.
Neville has made a case for Mauricio Pochettino, manager of Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur.
“The next manager of Manchester United should be Mauricio Pochettino and not just because he’s done a good job at Tottenham,” said Neville. “When I look at the values of Manchester United, you look at Pochettino’s belief in young players, you look at his performance levels and the style of play, you look at the way in which he carries himself at all times, publicly and in private.
“For me, he just feels like the most ideal candidate.”