Jose Mourinho was fired by Manchester United on Tuesday after failing to restore its status as a major European force in a turbulent 2 1/2-year spell marked by clashes with players and increasing disgruntlement at the team’s style of play.
The end for Mourinho at English soccer’s most prestigious club came two days after a 3-1 loss at Liverpool, which was the latest reminder of just how far United has slumped behind the top teams in the Premier League and Europe.
United said it will not hire a permanent replacement for Mourinho until the offseason. The club will appoint a caretaker manager for the remainder of the season in the coming days.
Mourinho, a serial winner of trophies throughout his coaching career, arrived at Old Trafford in 2016 as a supposed quick fix for United following its struggles after the retirement of long-time manager Alex Ferguson three years earlier.
He leaves with United sixth in the Premier League — 19 points off the lead after 17 games — and with his coaching career at a crossroads, with critics questioning if his abrasive approach to management, on and off the field, still suits modern-day soccer.
United won two titles in Mourinho’s first season — the English League Cup and the Europa League — but failed to capture a trophy in his second season, although second place in the league was its highest finish since Ferguson left.
Mourinho has historically encountered problems in his third season in charge at clubs he has managed, and it was no different at United.
His relationship with Paul Pogba, United’s record signing at $116 million and the marquee arrival in Mourinho’s reign, appeared broken following a spat that started in the offseason.
Pogba, who hasn’t started for United in its last three games, wrote on Instagram “Caption this!” alongside a picture of him smirking in a post published soon after the announcement of Mourinho’s departure. It was quickly deleted.
Mourinho had also been unhappy that United’s board failed to back his wish to sign a central defender in the offseason. United has already conceded more goals in the league (29) than it did in all of last season.
Then there was United’s pragmatic and often-ponderous style of play under Mourinho that always seemed at odds with United’s preference down the years for free-flowing, attacking play.
Mourinho’s final match in charge was the loss at Anfield, after which he said his players were brittle and couldn’t cope with the intensity and physicality of Liverpool — historically United’s biggest rival. United also lost 3-1 to neighbor Manchester City in the league in recent weeks in another display that highlighted the team’s demise.