'Tarnishing everything he's done' - Is Mourinho's legacy on the line at Manchester United?

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The United boss has always had an unseemly edge to his management but that is becoming his dominant characteristic at the cost of success

Nobody cares more about Jose Mourinho’s historic managerial successes than the man himself. The Manchester United boss is well known for bringing his achievements into conversations whenever the opportunity arises.

“If Paul one day decides to be a manager, I wish that he can be 25 per cent as successful as myself,” he said of Paul Scholes earlier this year, after the ex-United midfielder had raised concerns over Paul Pogba’s form in a red shirt.

Even when asked about his joy at winning the Manchester derby in April, Mourinho was setting it against the backdrop of his previous record: "Probably because I won eight championships I was not over the moon with the victory because that doesn’t make me feel super happy.”

Mourinho is clearly a proud man, and it is when he feels most under pressure that he is quick to remind people of his pedigree in the game. A man with 25 trophies to his name arguably has every right to use them as evidence that he knows what he is doing.

However, Manchester United is a club which lives in the here and now, and one which prides itself on the entertainment it offers its fans. Even prior to the unparalleled successes of Sir Alex Ferguson’s 26 years at the club, Old Trafford was a place synonymous with captivating football.

The likes of George Best, Bobby Charlton, Bryan Robson, Norman Whiteside and Lou Macari had left indelible marks on great Old Trafford performances long before Sir Alex rocked up, and it was around such attractive, attacking football that the great Scot insisted on basing his sides throughout his incredible reign.

Mourinho, on the other hand, was always going to try to do things differently.

Jose Mourinho Scholes PS

Everybody knew that Ed Woodward’s decision to bring in the Portuguese was a conservative measure at a time when United desperately needed to get back to playing Champions League football every season.

Sir Bobby Charlton was an outspoken opponent of the appointment long before it even came about.

“A United manager wouldn’t do that,” Charlton said of Mourinho’s infamous eye-gouge on the late Tito Vilanova in 2011. “Mourinho is a really good coach but that’s as far as I would go really.”

But having brought in the former Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid boss, there was a clear desire that he replicate some of those past achievements – with eight league titles and two Champions League crowns among his honours.

So far, though, there has been no sign of that level of success and United’s 2018-19 season has begun with backbiting, conjecture and misery off the field along with disappointment on it.

While he has attempted to employ some of the same tactics that he used in previous jobs, it just hasn’t washed at Manchester United.

Jose Mourinho Manchester United

This is not a club at which fans will sit and watch turgid, introspective football forever in the vague hope that a trophy will follow. They want to be entertained because that is what they have come to expect.

And the manager’s behaviour is not in keeping with United’s traditions either. Rather than nurturing youth talents, he has stunted the growth of some and used others as punching bags.

Even looking beyond the whole Luke Shaw saga of the last two years, the way he cast aside the seven young additions to his squad for the US tour and moaned about the fact he didn’t have “my squad” available was unbecoming of a person in his position.

He has also pilloried Pogba when given the opportunity to praise him post-World Cup, undermined his superiors by revealing plans for signings that have subsequently failed to arrive, taken every opportunity to blast Manchester City for having the temerity to win games of football and entertain their supporters, and has generally gone about making enemies left, right and centre.

Consequently, Mourinho now finds himself isolated.

Ian Wright has compared the current climate at Old Trafford to "the last days of Arsene Wenger", arguing that, just like the former Arsenal boss, the two-time Champions League winner risks tarnishing everything he's done, while Paul Ince believes United have become a "laughing stock" .

Jose Mourinho Arsene Wenger Cartoon

Of far greater significance than the opinions of old pros, though, Woodward and the board no longer trust Mourinho with their cash.

The players appear not to be playing for him any longer either and while some fans remain with him, there are many for whom he was never the right fit and his behaviour of late has only given their argument more veracity.

Even on a personal level, the 55-year-old doesn’t have the support he once did. He continues to live out of the Lowry Hotel on the western bank of the River Irwell for convenience’s sake since his family remain in London to save further disruption to their own busy lives.

No longer does he have Rui Faria as a sounding board either, with his assistant of 17 years having taken time out of the game after last season ahead of a potential step into management.

Mourinho now finds himself surrounded by an increasingly greater amount of adversaries and very few friends, and all the signs suggest that he has little chance of escaping unscathed from the impending storm approaching Old Trafford.

And should that happen, then it is hard to see what follows for a man who was once the hottest property on the managerial market.

While few can claim to have achieved consistent success over a period of multiple decades, Mourinho’s star had shone so brightly and his mouth had broadcast so loudly that it appeared impossible that he would fade away quietly from the top of the world game.

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Yet that is the threat right now. He is doing himself no favours if he really wants his legacy to be reflective of the magnificent things he was able to achieve between 2002 and 2012 rather than the rifts, maliciousness, consternation and regret which have characterised the more recent phase of his career.

Mourinho used to be a byword for success at a cost, but now he is turning into a byword for a whole heap of trouble with the outside chance of progress on the field.

And that, for Manchester United, is just not good enough.

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