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Manchester United are repeating their errors with Moyes and Van Gaal by delaying sacking Mourinho

Manchester United are repeating their errors with Moyes and Van Gaal by delaying sacking Mourinho

Ed Woodward put off the inevitable when firing previous failing managers - he hasn't learnt his lesson.

IT was around this time of year, five years ago, that David Moyes had passed the point of no return as Manchester United manager.

Sir Alex Ferguson, in his final public address as boss, had implored the Old Trafford faithful to stand by the new man in the job, but he surely hadn’t counted on there being so much to the argument against Moyes.

United had struggled all season, but it was with two back-to-back home defeats to Everton and Newcastle at the start of December that an air of resignation became apparent around the club. Things would not work out. Moyes might have been ‘The Chosen One,’ but he wasn’t the right one.

And yet it took Man Utd a further four months to actually dispose of Moyes. By that time, the season was beyond salvage, with the defending Premier League champions ultimately finishing a lowly seventh. 

A similar sort of thing happened in Louis Van Gaal’s second season in charge. United found themselves outside the top four and with just two wins from the eight games played up to Christmas Day 2015. The progression many believed would happen under the Dutchman just wasn’t happening, and it was clear that it was never going to happen.

Just like with Moyes, though, Man Utd waited to sack Van Gaal. They led a very public pursuit of Jose Mourinho through the winter and all the way to the end of the season, when Van Gaal was eventually relieved of his position. Had they made a change sooner, a top four place might have been rescued.

Now, with Mourinho in charge, United are once again waiting too long to make the necessary change. It’s become clear over the early part of the season that Mourinho is incapable of turning things around. He is a manager in terminal decline. What’s more, he is doing real damage to a club that has already taken a battering in the post-Ferguson years.

Mourinho reportedly called Paul Pogba a “virus” after the weekend’s draw against Southampton, but it is the Portuguese who has become Manchester United’s infected limb. An amputation is required before it spreads. Sacking Mourinho wouldn’t just be about turning things around, but damage limitation as well.

As things stand, though, there’s no indication that Mourinho will be sacked any time soon. Man Utd struggled to a 2-2 draw against the worst team in the Premier League on Saturday, but nothing has travelled along the grapevine that suggests Mourinho is fighting for his job. The Portuguese probably isn’t too concerned about having to clear out his office. 

It has been argued more than once that in the post-Ferguson age Man Utd have become just like every other club. Once an anomaly who stood by the one manager for over two decades, United have been through three different coaches in six seasons. That hire-fire rate might fall in line with the kind seen elsewhere in football, but Man Utd aren’t like every other club.

Being like every other club would in fact help them. United stood by Moyes and Van Gaal for too long and now they are doing the same with Mourinho. Gianluca Vialli once said that had Moyes been a manager in Italy he would have been sacked three times over before Man Utd eventually got rid of the Scot. The same could be said of Mourinho this season.

In six post-Ferguson seasons, Man Utd, one of the biggest clubs in the world, have written off three whole campaigns. It’s sheer negligence and shows where their priorities are. Moyes was sacked as soon as Champions League qualification was unobtainable, activating a clause in the Scot’s contract that allowed him to be relieved of his duties for less in compensation. Van Gaal also had a clause in his contract that meant he could be sacked for less at the end of his second season.

It’s not known whether Mourinho’s contract, which wasn’t signed all that long ago, has an escape clause of sorts written in for the end of the season, but something is stopping Man Utd from pulling the rigger and given how they have handled the dismissal of their two previous managers, it’s most likely money.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised that the richest football club in the world is being so stingy. Mourinho’s mid-season severance package will be a hefty one. But are Ed Woodward et al charged with protecting Manchester United, the brand and business or Manchester United, the football club? The longer Mourinho stays, the longer the apathy festers, the answer to that question becomes clearer.





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Graham Ruthven
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