LASESARRE, SPAIN - AUGUST 5: Puma Orbita, the official match ball of LaLiga in detail prior the pre-season friendly match between Athletic Club and Real Sociedad on August 5, 2022 at Lasesarre Stadium in Barakaldo, Spain. Noxthirdxpartyxsales PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxJPN 195228971

Jose Mourinho and High Expectations in Manchester

I’m meant to enjoy all of this, after all, everyone else seems to be.

After two and a half years at the helm, Jose Mourinho has been sacked by Manchester United. The Portuguese coach has been a walking soap opera over the last six months with a downward spiral of unfortunate events coming to a head on Tuesday morning.

I’ll be honest, I’ve grown to respect, and dare I say admire Mourinho at times over the last year or so. In my eyes he’s matured, although many people would argue the opposite is true.

The media have blown up much of what he’s said, although I suppose that happens when you spend close to £400M and sit only two points ahead of Everton. Then again, according to much of my Twitter feed, Everton are at the start of a three-year plan which ends with them winning the Champions League in 2021, so maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.

I look at his interviews and he seems a different man to the often petulant and self-serving character that was seen at Chelsea. Rather than throw shade at his managerial rivals as he so regularly did against the likes of Wenger and Benitez, by the end of his United tenure he had just resorted to calling his own players pricks.

He now prefers talking about the things that matter in football rather than use every second sentence as an opportunity to needle someone. Although the media will blow up the rare bits of snide he’s still occasionally getting out of his system to a remarkable extent.

Again, maybe it’s just because he’s losing and drawing quite frequently these days, but he seems a more mature, calmer and respectful man for the most part who gets the spirit of the English game.

It could be that living in a hotel has mellowed him. My favourite Mourinho at United stat is that he spent the full two and a half years staying in the five-star Lowry Hotel in Manchester instead of buying a house. Amazing.

He’s been labelled as outdated, but wins a league title at a canter as recently as 2015 with Chelsea. Last season United amass 82 points, and it should have been 86 had they not dropped points in dead rubbers during the last week of the season.

Expectations at United will remain high for quite a while, possibly forever in fact. Imagine being a supporter of the Red Devils born in 1986. From your first year in primary school right up until you get married you see your side dominate English football, winning 13 league titles in 20 years and two European Cups as industrial-sized cherries on top.

Then it goes just like that. Only getting top four every second year, not mounting a serious title challenge, seeing managers come and go without any serious signs of stability and teams coming to Old Trafford without fear of getting walloped.

It’s some comedown, isn’t it?

I don’t think they really know how to rough it out, United fans that is. With good reason I suppose. While boring agricultural football was supporters’ main gripe last year in a season where they finished second to a record-breaking City side, I’m not sure it would have been all sunshine and rainbows had they got the same number of points with free-flowing entertaining football.

Mourinho surely would’ve lasted a bit longer, but would supporters really have been behind him?

I wouldn’t fancy that job if I was in management (I doubt I’m on their shortlist anyway to be honest). The bar is just set too high there. In many ways, being such a big global brand has worked against them in the post-Ferguson era.

Even though few fans would openly admit it, you get the feeling anything other than a league win or a good run deep into the knockout stages of the European Cup (which is all the more harder when you can’t even qualify for the competition) would fall short of what is expected in Manchester.

Supporters praised achievements such as the League Cup and Europa League wins in 2017, but there was an underlying sense that it didn’t mean all that much to them if United didn’t use it to kick on and win bigger and better silverware and eventually get back to winning league titles every second year.

It still seems too soon after Ferguson for many United fans to fully get behind a manager, forget about the transfer figures and truly enjoy something like an FA Cup win or a top four finish.

Other factors come into play of course. Guardiola’s side being so much better than them will only lengthen frustrations and shorten people’s patiences, and of course there’s the amount of money being pumped into the transfer market, depsite what Jose may think.

They’ll be alright though. For all the talk that the north-west powerhouse are going to fall into a Liverpool-like period of mediocrity, they should always have too much to ever fall any further away from England’s best as they already have.

The Pogba transfer proved that United didn’t need a guarantee of big silverware or even Champions League football to attract football’s biggest names.

But while signings like a Di Maria, a Pogba or a Sanchez will always keep you at the right end of the table, the next United manager must remember this is not just a few seasons of a FIFA career mode. (By the way has anyone checked on Alexis, feel like I haven’t seen him since February, is he alright?)

To challenge for the biggest honours there has to be some sort of ethos and identity to the squad. Less must become more in the transfer market (you don’t hear too many fans who support a foreign team say that now, do you?) in order to avoid the Everest-like expectations United have created for themselves and to actually build a team as opposed to a selection of individuals who all seem to have different things in mind.

Interesting times ahead.

Also, wasn’t it fitting that apart from the press conferences and post-match interviews around Sunday’s match, Mourinho’s last media duty was an interview with Tubes from Soccer AM. Shame he didn’t have one question and one question only for him…