The fall out of Manchester United’s tremendously frustrating summer could yet lead to the biggest explosion of all, with Ed Woodward and Jose Mourinho at loggerheads over the transfer policy at the club.
As Red Issue commented on Twitter, there have been behind the scenes tugs of war between the pair, with two telling statements. They report that Mourinho has told insiders “Any other club and I would have quit”, while Woodward has insisted to some that “Jose hasn’t helped himself”.
Woodward’s briefing to the press appears to have continued, with the Guardian reporting that the club actually rejected Mourinho’s ‘transfer wishlist’, with this key opening passage: “Manchester United did not follow through with some of José Mourinho’s transfer targets because of misgivings about the players he had identified and a decision, from the top of the club, that he should not be allowed to get his way if it meant potentially wasting tens of millions of pounds on a short-term fix.”
Mourinho has his detractors, plenty of them present in the United support, but while they would have voiced their reservations over signings like Toby Alderweireld or Willian because of their age, they would have also accepted the players were a big upgrade on what they currently had.
It could, perhaps should, and uncertainly will be perceived as a lack of support and a vote of no confidence in a manager given a new contract in January.
But even the section of support who wouldn’t be too dissatisfied if Mourinho was no longer manager must be tremendously concerned by the briefings coming out, and how short-term the club’s own planning is to give a manager a contract in January and refuse to back him in the summer, particularly when the links to Toby Alderweireld and Willian, Mourinho’s primary targets, pre-date the contract.
Another line in the Guardian says “Yet the club have had to balance the manager’s wishes, and the permanent battle to keep him happy, by taking into account Mourinho is notorious for wanting short-term measures, rarely stays too long at any club and does not tend to worry about what happens when he leaves.”
The ‘third season syndrome’, which has its fallacies in truth but a close enough relationship with it to be understood, suggests that Jose Mourinho implodes. If that is the case then it feels like the club have engineered it to be the case. If the climate of the club forces Mourinho to walk then United fans will be hoping – against hope – that the powers that be a) have a greater nous of football than they have appeared to show since 2013 and b) have a solid succession plan.