Was Jose Mourinho a failure at Manchester United?

Just over 5 years on from Jose Mourinho’s sacking at Manchester United and opinion on the Portuguese managers tenure at the club is split.

The initial atmosphere around the club after his departure was overwhelmingly positive, after a long period of toxicity and fall out’s.

Mourinho had seemingly lost the dressing room weeks before his sacking, with Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher suggesting he’d lost it over two and a half months before his departure.

To worsen the situation, the Portuguese coach had many fall out’s with United’s record signing Paul Pogba, which further increased the tensions.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced the two time Champions League winner and was hugely successful in his ‘honeymoon period,’ winning 10 and drawing one in 11 games.

This confirmed to fans that they were right to perceive Mourinho’s tenure in such negative light.

However, five years later and this has changed significantly.

The phrase ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ is certainly a factor, but with the failure of Solskjaer and the recent struggles of Erik ten Hag, this is beginning to drastically change the public opinion on Mourinho’s tenure.

Some now believe Mourinho shouldn’t have been sacked and it was external factors which failed him.

But was Mourinho a failure or should he have been given more time?


Jose Mourinho

In his 144 games managing United, Mourinho won three trophies.

He won the Community Shield, the League Cup and the Europa League.

All three of these came in his first season.

Since his sacking, United hadn’t won a trophy in six years before Ten Hag was victorious in the 2022 League Cup final against Newcastle.

Similarly, before his arrival, David Moyes failed to win a trophy before he was sacked and Louis van Gaal could only win an FA Cup.

At United, a manager will be remembered and judged by silverware and Mourinho was the most successful in this regard.

Fans almost took this for granted and so as the six-year drought grew, Mourinho’s tenure became more appreciated.

However, on the contrary, there’s no doubt his first season is successful, but Mourinho was brought into win the big trophies like the Premier League and Champions League.

Whilst the Europa League has importance, it’s not the pedigree of trophy United and Mourinho were aiming for.

You could argue that you have to be realistic and so winning this is still a big triumph, but for a club like United to let standards slip that much, would be devastating.

Mourinho is the most successful United manager post Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, but his tenure will be judged against expectation and thus he failed to win the big trophies he aimed to bring back to Manchester.

When compared to other recent United managers, he’d come out on top, but against his own ambitions, he’d lose.

Style of play

Jose Mourinho

Mourinho’s never been known to play creative attacking football, but he’d never had the expectation to do so.

Upon arriving at United, a club so deeply rooted in it’s fast counter attacking free flowing football, Mourinho would have to either bring guaranteed results or adapt to the looming expectation of a United manager.

Mourinho did neither.

United fans are stubborn, but many will compromise.

Mourinho just couldn’t find the balance.

He played his pragmatic and slow football, whilst failing to win the trophies promised.

Thus, in his first season, it was tolerable as fans saw adequate success on the field.

However, in his second and particularly his third season, with results worsening and no signs of change, Mourinho was losing support of the fans.

He never fit the ideology of United, but after Moyes and Van Gaal’s failure, maybe it was time to leave this legacy behind, moving away from the mentalities of Sir Matt Busby and Ferguson to create a new era at the club.

However, this adaptation of policy was quickly abandoned as with the sacking of Mourinho, all fans wanted was someone to play attractive, ‘United football;’ to get them on their feet at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ once again.

Ultimately, Mourinho failed to inflict a winning consistency which could appease fans to his slower approach to football and subsequently, he was sacked.

Player Power vs Manager Power


“The minute a Manchester United player thought he was bigger than the manager, he had to go.”

This quote from Ferguson inadvertently defines Mourinho’s reign.

Upon his arrival, record signing Pogba swiftly rose to prominence in the dressing room as an influential figure.

This influence, however, swiftly became too poignant, after public fallouts with the manager led to Mourinho losing the dressing room.

The atmosphere at the club was infected, gradually becoming more toxic day by day.

Mourinho initially criticised Pogba’s public comments in the media, he was later stripped of vice captaincy, before the training ground row just added further flame to the fire.

The relationship between the pair reached such a low where players began siding with Pogba.

The increasing nature of player power is a major concern in modern day football with this being a striking example.

Mourinho wanted Pogba gone, but the club eventually saw Pogba as more valuable…

Ultimately, alongside results, this huge divide in support is what got Mourinho the sack as players stopped playing for him.

Should they have done this?

Absolutely not, they should have fought for the badge irrespective of who’s in charge, but with the lack of protection in the media for players like Luke Shaw, it’s not surprising to see Mourinho lose the dressing room and subsequently his job.

Thus, as Ferguson said, Pogba became more powerful than the manager, with the club rather keeping the French international than the manager himself and at that stage, Mourinho hit the point of no return.

Weak ownership

man united protest against glazers banner

Whilst Mourinho’s final year was a catastrophe in all regards, this was significantly catalysed by the terrible investment from the Glazer family and chief executive Ed Woodward the summer prior.

Off the back of a trophyless second season, Mourinho needed to get his key signings so he could push this squad onto finally compete for the Premier League again.

He wanted players like Ivan Perisic and Toby Alderweireld but instead was given Fred, Diogo Dalot and a reserve keeper Lee Grant.

Whilst Fred cost a huge £52m, arriving from Shakhtar Donetsk, his quality was unknown, likewise the 19-year-old Diogo Dalot who had everything to prove.

In addition, Mourinho wanted to clear out and move on the older players and those unfit to wear the United shirt.

However, Mourinho was denied this and was left with most of the players that were clearly not good enough.

Subsequently, instead of being provided proven quality players, ready to take Mourinho’s United team to the next level and sell off the ‘weaker players,’ he was supplied with risky signings, who the Portuguese manager couldn’t be certain would actually improve his side.

The Glazer family had no intention of investing significantly that summer, no matter what trophies could be won. The intention was always financial gain.

As a result, the Glazer’s failed Mourinho in his final year and some part of the blame can be left on their shoulders as he was set up to fail.

The Portuguese icon didn’t have the team needed to close the 19-point gap to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City centurions.

Ultimately, Mourinho’s tenure at Manchester United was a failure, as he was brought into the club to win the Premier League and Champions League but won neither.

His style of play opposed the ‘United way,’ but he wasn’t able to win the trophies needed to make up for it after his first year.

The player power was ridiculous, but this stemmed from his negative treatment of players in the media, which gradually strengthened the toxicity around the club.

The owners should have funded him better, but this doesn’t excuse for the terrible football and horrendous results.

Subsequently, Mourinho did fail at Manchester United.