Post Manchester United’s FA Cup final defeat to Chelsea, the club’s supporters hurled out abuses at manager Jose Mourinho on social media.
When Manchester United appointed Jose Mourinho as the new manager of the club back in the summer of 2016, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that not all fans were thrilled with the appointment.
Mourinho, despite all his success at various clubs ranging from Porto to Real Madrid, attracted controversies. In spite of all the things he has achieved in the game, he always divided opinions among the footballing fraternity and the fans, and still continues to do so, in a huge way.
Manchester United are a club with a rich history, a history that was built on footballing ideologies that are as different to Mourinho’s philosophy as chalk and cheese.
The Red Devils have always been known for their firebrand, attacking style of play full of flair and passion and their never give up attitude, that has brought them so much success over the years. “The United Way” has been at the core of the club’s DNA for ages now, the fans have been feasting it for such a long period of time, that when things changed past Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2012, it did not sit well.
David Moyes, the “Chosen One” so to say, struggled for results in his short and sorry stint at Old Trafford and the style of play was also extremely dull and dour, so much so that, during matches, the supporters would constantly break into chants of “Attack, Attack, Attack!”
Post Moyes’ sacking, Louis van Gaal was brought in to steady the ship and while the results did improve under the outspoken Dutchman, the chants of “Attack, Attack, Attack!”, continued to emanate from the stands. So, when Mourinho was brought in for the former Netherlands boss, the fans were right to be sceptical.
Here was a man whose philosophy was completely different to what the club had been built on. On one hand, United prided on their attack-minded, entertaining football and on the other, was a manager who had built his career upon pragmatic, defensive and safety-first approach. It was no secret that at some point there was going to be a clash of the ideologies, a collision course was pretty much imminent.
Nevertheless, the early signs were promising. The recruitment of flair players like Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba hinted towards the possibility that Jose was willing to adapt. And the results initially did not disappoint as well. However, post that calamitous 4-0 defeat to Chelsea away from home, the Portuguese reverted to type and seeds of unrest were sown in the minds of the fans.
Much was forgotten though, when he led the club to an EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League triumph, restoring Champions League football once again. And the dazzling way the Red Devils began Jose’s second season in-charge, with back to back 4-0 wins, playing a fluid, vibrant and attacking brand of football, it seemed like both Mourinho and United had turned a corner.
However, once again, it would just prove to be a false dawn, as the Portuguese soon resorted to his favoured tactics against a Liverpool side that were there for the tacking and walked away with just a point. The unrest slowly began to grow.
The early momentum had been lost and the results were dwindling as defeats to newly promoted Huddersfield Town, rivals Chelsea and Manchester City meant the fans were growing frustrated. The Carabao Cup exit at the hands of Bristol City, the losses to Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United continued to mount pressure on the boss.
The watershed moment though, would come in the month of March. By the time, United were already knocked out of the Premier League title race by City and the club had pinned their hopes on progression in the UEFA Champions League. And a relatively straightforward draw against Sevilla meant the fans were quite positive about going further in the competition.
A goalless draw in the first leg in Seville was seen as a decent result, despite the dullness of the performance. However, when substitute Wissam Ben Yedder struck twice in the last ten minutes in the return leg at Old Trafford to dump United out of the Champions League, the fans couldn’t handle it anymore.
It was a meek surrender from Mourinho’s men, who looked devoid of any ideas and inspiration and played most of the game on the backfoot, inviting pressure from the visitors, for which they ended up paying the ultimate price. And if that was not enough, Mourinho then went on his infamous “heritage” rant, which only drew more ire from the club’s supporters.
And when Mourinho once again deployed to his old methods in the final of the FA Cup against Chelsea, that ended with them losing out on the only opportunity to win a trophy this season, the frosty relationship between the fans and the manager reached boiling point.
A number of United supporters took to social media to take shots at the manager, directing abuses at him and his family, while there were comments laced with death threats as well.
And not very long after this, Mourinho went on to delete his Instagram account. While his representatives released a statement saying the 55-year old actually deactivated the account, because he became “bored” of the site, the timing of it all does seem a little off.
To an extent, they are very much right, in demanding Jose for the style of football that they have grown up admiring, the style that defined who Manchester United are. Especially so, given that he has the quality players needed to make it work. You don’t shell out huge sums of money on the likes of Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez to shackle them and cut out their natural instincts on the field.
However, the way the supporters went about expressing their frustration and anger was uncalled for. After the unfolding of these events, it is only fair to say that the relationship between Mourinho and the club’s supporters has hit nadir.
What Mourinho needs to realize at this point of time, is that at a club like Manchester United, things are set in a certain way and there are always going to be expectations to meet those set standards that have fired them to great glory over the years. Unlike most of his previous jobs, where he changed things at the clubs to adapt to his way, here at Old Trafford, it is he who needs to adapt, to change his methods and deliver the kind of football the Red Devils have been long known for.
And the fans too, despite all their frustrations and patience wearing thin, need to respect the man that Jose is and not resort to such poor and distasteful antics. After all, at the end of the day, both parties want to see Manchester United restored to its old glory.