What a week this is going to be for the chief. Assailed by critics on all sides, ridiculed in the media, undermined by rebellious underlings, and with another European test looming. Is this survivable?
But enough of PM Theresa May at the Tory party conference; how is José Mourinho doing? Even worse, actually. Theresa will surely at least survive until next Sunday. José? Erm, not so sure, mate.
The Derby defeat was bad enough but West Ham on Saturday was an ocean-going all-encompassing historic shambles. Now it’s another “cracked badge week”, as Fergie used to sigh, with Valencia tomorrow night promising to be as significant a moment as was Sevilla six months ago.
You may recall European defeat caused the scales to fall from many a red eye concerning Mourinho, and it’s never quite since been glad confident morning again. Another defeat to an invading Spanish armada would surely bring this Portuguese man o’war to the brink of destruction.
We always ask ourselves “has the manager lost the dressing room?” at these junctures and, frankly, it would be hard to argue that United’s players gave anything like 100% for their manager on Saturday. It wasn’t the first such occasion this season either. I am told only a handful of players retain the boss’s trust, and it’s safe to say that troublemaker-in-chief Pogba won’t be one of them.
A Red Issue website poll found 80% of fans would support José against Pogba in any final smackdown scenario. But that’s as far as the support goes; many, if not most, of that same 80% would also like to see Mourinho replaced, once Pogba had been dispatched.
But most canny Old Trafford observers will tell you that it’s all pure unrealisable hypothesis anyway, because Ed Woodward would do almost everything he could to prevent Pogba’s departure. Poor wretched Ed; one would almost feel sorry for him, were he not such a widely- despised munchkin.
He is desperate to keep José and Pogba, for losing either ‘star signing’ would reflect terribly on his stewardship, and constitute a public humiliation. Yet he must surely know the odds are so stacked against him, that the bookies wouldn’t even take the bets.
Ed and his people have also been furiously denying that anyone’s approached Zidane about potentially succeeding Mourinho. That’s despite the Frenchman being the obvious and best choice of successor, and at a time when any cautious responsible CEO should be making contingency plans. Moyes, Van Gaal, and Mourinho were all sounded out well before their predecessors left, so why expect us to believe it should be any different now?
My own sources in Lisbon tell me that José believes Zidane has been asked for his opinion about the succession, though not directly by Woodward. José and Zidane do talk, and it is believed the latter does not wish to be thought of as some sort of plotting co-conspirator. Mourinho’s attitude to all this was described to me as being “somewhat resigned to fate taking charge”. Hey ho; perhaps Mr Fate can do a better job organising a back three, and getting Pogba to put a shift in?
So into the valley of death we all ride for this week of trial, the ridges lined with snipers and guns to the side of us, Valencia and then Newcastle ahead of us. Grim enough a prospect for José as it is, without having also to worry about the calibre and commitment of his troops.
I read in a UK Sunday newspaper yesterday a surprising survey finding: three out of five Brits believe in miracles. Ed Woodward will surely be one of that 60%, praying for deliverance this week, and hoping against hope we can all then get to the end of the season intact. And me? Let’s just say it’s been a long time since I saw the inside of a church...