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19/12/2023 17:24

Jose Mourinho is right and Manchester United might listen to him this time

Strange but true: a serial winner of a football manager is appointed at a club where, two progressive years in, an absentee owner who resides in the United States and a rugby enthusiast investment banker decide they know better than him.

It should concern those in situ at MUt that Jose Mourinho’s comments last week are identical to what he said four-and-a-half years ago.

“There are still people at that club and when I say people, I say some players, but also some other people who aren’t players, they’re still there and after two months with these people, you are never going to do it,” Jose Mourinho said on the Obj One podcast.

In May 2019, Jose Mourinho told L’Equipe: “The problems are there, you can say that these are the players, the organisation, the ambition.”

Of the current United squad, Victor Lindelof, Diogo Dalot, Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial played under Mourinho.

During his conversation with his old Chelsea enforcer John Obi Mikel, Mourinho scoffed at the memory that an agent of a United player accused him of bullying his client by substituting him at half-time. That player is believed to be Shaw.

Shaw got off on the wrong foot with Mourinho when he was a teenager at Southampton and met the Portuguese over a potential move to his boyhood club Chelsea. Mourinho questioned Shaw’s salary demands after he joined United and rancour continued during their two-and-a-half year working relationship and beyond.

Mourinho was never going to use kid gloves with the immature Shaw, who was once late to training as his mother had overslept and did not wake him. During a gym session, a United player noticed a fitness coach outsprinting Shaw and started filming it before WhatsApping the clip to Mourinho.

Shaw has matured into the best left-back in the country and for his country. “He is a man now,” Mourinho told a confidant last season.

It is safe to assume one of the “people still there” Mourinho referred to is Martial. It is also safe to assume this will be Martial’s final season at United as the one-year extension in his contract is set to be left dormant.

Shaw was immature in his first few years at United

Shaw was immature in his first few years at United

The United social media team decided not to wish Martial a happy birthday on the Twitter cesspit earlier this month. They did on the supposedly safer Instagram, where the top comment reads, “The comment’s [sic] gonna be wild”.

Mourinho opened the door to a Martial departure in July 2018 yet Joel Glazer and Ed Woodward closed it. There was so much discord during that pre-season tour of the United States there was briefing and counter-briefing. It continued on transfer deadline day at Carrington.

In fairness to Martial, when the going got tough in Mourinho’s final months he got going and embarked on a career-best run of six goals in seven games. Mourinho was an ardent Martial cheerleader on the touchline at Stamford Bridge, where the Frenchman lashed in two goals against Chelsea in October 2018.

Martial ended the season with more goals under Mourinho than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The more relevant stat is there were 44 days between Martial’s agent, Philippe Lamboley, saying “I am very pessimistic about a positive outcome of the discussions” and Martial scrawling his signature on a five-and-a-half year contract. Mourinho was sacked a day after Lamboley ran his mouth off.

Martial wanted out under Mourinho

In June 2018, Lamboley publicly blabbed to RMC Sport, “Anthony wants to leave”. United had their trousers pulled down by Lamboley and Martial, who has scored 46 goals for the club since Mourinho was sacked five years ago yesterday.

Mourinho later complained Glazer refused to sell Martial as he was his favourite player. Martial represented resale value back in 2018 and he is destined to be released at the age of 28.

Paul Pogba, the other half of the French connection, was released 18 months ago. That is United’s comeuppance for pandering to players and siding with them over the manager.

If the Ineos Group has done ample research, they will consider how United danced to the tune of players and agents, wilfully allowing them to undermine their manager. Erik ten Hag saw off Cristiano Ronaldo and any other player – David de Gea, Jadon Sancho – is small-fry.

Ronaldo had to go after he said he had no respect for Ten Hag

Ronaldo had to go after he said he had no respect for Ten Hag

The United matchgoers are conscious of this. They booed a gaggle of players rather than the manager as they skulked towards the tunnel after the insipid defeat by Bournemouth ten days ago. Marcus Rashford’s substitution has been cheered by some and he was booed by a minority when he came on against Chelsea a fortnight ago.

Rashford’s brother and agent, Dwaine Maynard, goaded Mourinho on Instagram after Rashford’s goals sealed a 2-1 United win over Mourinho’s Tottenham in December 2019. Rashford won two of the four major trophies he has lifted with United under Mourinho and was upgraded to the No.10 by him.

As culpable as Ten Hag has been in a season where United have lost more games than they have won, there is the principle of retaining him so certain players do not outlive another manager. Some have been in that dressing room under previous regimes permanent and interim, downed tools, sat tight and outlasted them.

But Glazer and Woodward are no longer calling the shots.

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