The cry was loud last season for Jose Mourinho to take the helm at Old Trafford. Scarves, songs, you name it, it was present around the terraces and in front of the ground during the last season of Louis van Gaal’s tumultuous reign as manager of Manchester United. Boring football was part of the downfall of the Dutchman, but also the failure to procure Champions League football for the 2016/17 season – something seen as a must for a club the size of Manchester United and also a big part (and finishing seventh) in the dismantling of David Moyes time in charge. It’s a realistic and rational expectation for United fans, but with recent form less than favourable there has been a question posed; what if Jose Mourinho fails to reach that target?
Ignoring his last season in charge of Chelsea, Mourinho is an exceptional manager. Few can boast a record as impressive as his, and though he may not have very many friends in the footballing world it wasn’t really a bad appointment to covet. He is a serial winner. The season started well, and though nothing was perfect you felt a plan was there and eventually it would come good. One win in seven games later and things are suddenly very gloomy in Manchester. But the man the fans wanted can’t come under the same scrutiny as his post Sir Alex Ferguson predecessors surely?
It may not happen, there is a long way to go in the season and the resources for a resurgence are definitely to hand, but what if Mourinho fails to achieve top four? The precedent has been set, the craving in modern football for instant success now embedded deep in all football fans and for two managers to feel the cold steel of the axe for not achieving the minimum expectation surely means that the new man patrolling the Old Trafford touchline cannot be spared the same fate. It would be hypocrisy level 10.
United Stand to lose a lot if this should fail. Adidas will cut £23 million off the sponsorship deal, £23 million that will never be recouped for the rest of the term. TV money and sponsorships will be slashed massively, with the debt seemingly there forever surely the clock is ticking on when it begins to have an effect on the running of the club. That too would trigger difficulties with Financial Fair Play, currently United are safely within the boundaries but another hit to the revenue could well bring that into disrepute. And then there is the stance from the club. If United want to get back to winning ways then Ed Woodward and co cannot be seen to be operating on a one rule for one and another for everyone else, the reputation of the club would be tarnished to say the least.
Of course everything here is hypothetical. There are still seven months to go in the current season and a manager of Mourinho’s quality can find the answers with what he has at his disposal. My personal stance is that yes, the club needs to run by a precedent they have set but it also takes more than 1 full season to turn a sinking ship like United around. Failure to reach the top four would be a massive blow for a club of United’s stature but it certainly wouldn’t end the world. It may serve as a reminder to those in the fan base that dreams don’t always come true, and the perfect scenario of Mourinho in charge and winning things just can’t come true overnight. People may even start blaming the players, who knows.