Pogba, Fellaini, Sanchez and the winners & losers of Man Utd’s Mourinho exit

While the likes of Pogba and Sanchez will likely flourish post-Mourinho, Fellaini and McTominay may not find life quite so easy

It has been done. Jose Mourinho has been relieved from his duties at Manchester United, the Portuguese manager descending into something almost like a parody of himself as his horror-show of a season continued to unfold mercilessly beneath him.

The Premier League loss to Merseyside rivals Liverpool was the final straw for the club’s board, with the Portuguese let go on Tuesday. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks set to replace him following United’s premature announcement on the club’s website.

Stranded in sixth place with no chance of challenging Man City or Liverpool for the title and just a distant shot of finishing in the top four, Mourinho was finally dismissed from his post. Goal takes a look at those who will be benefiting from him getting sacked and those who will lose out.

At long last, he has been freed. Paul Pogba has been released from his shackles and he is now free to roam the wild. The fireworks happening in Manchester when the news broke weren’t just early Christmas festivities, but Pogba celebrating his freedom.

Since re-signing for Manchester United for a Premier League-record fee of £89 million in 2016, the France international has rarely been at his best for the Red Devils. His difference in form in playing for France and then for club has been aptly noted, and he is a shadow of the player who played such an important role for Les Bleus in recent years.

Pogba’s relationship with his manager has deteriorated spectacularly since the start of this season, from training ground bust-ups to sharply tongued barbs in the press – with the Portuguese boss even reported to have called the 25-year-old a “virus” to his team-mates. Ostracised from the squad and stripped of the captaincy, Mourinho has a habit for demoralising players and rendering the environment around him into something toxic and unpleasant. But Pogba can now breathe a sigh of relief.

It isn’t news that Pogba’s restlessness on and off the pitch could be due to repeated clashes with his manager and being snubbed for youngster Scott McTominay, as well as being named on the bench for Man United’s last two Premier League fixtures. With Mourinho gone, however, Pogba (as well as the likes of previously ostracised Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw) can finally be rid of his demons. Whoever replaces the Portuguese manager is sure to view Pogba as an asset and not as a burden, with even Solskjaer stating in August that he, given the chance, would build his team around Pogba. From the ashes of Mourinho can now rise a new Pogba.

The Special One is now the Sacked One. Mourinho has prided himself in being one of the best managers in the world, but his reputation will inevitably take a massive hit now that he has been sacked so ungraciously by Man United – with elite clubs potentially not wanting to align themselves with a coach who has fallen so hard from grace.

Following his treble win with Inter in 2010, he was rightfully lauded as the greatest manager of the time. And, as any great manager does, he moved to Real Madrid – though his time at the Bernabeu was just the slow start of the end for Mourinho. Clashes with respected club players such as Iker Casillas led to a fallout with the dressing room and the fans, though he was able to patch things up when he returned to his former home of Stamford Bridge – where he was still revered and loved amongst Chelsea supporters.

He was cruising again in his second spell in west London, having won the Premier League and League Cup, but the cracks started to show in his “infamous” third season and he was dismissed from his post before the turn of the New Year during the 2015-16 season after losing nine of his 16 first Premier League matches.

Ego severely bruised and still feeling as if he had something to prove to former La Liga rival Pep Guardiola, Mourinho returned to coaching not long after as manager of Manchester United, who had difficulty finding a manager of the same ilk of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson. They are big boots to fill, however, and though Mourinho won the League Cup and Europa League in his first season in charge, it isn’t the silverware that Ferguson chased. Mourinho is the most successful manager in the post-Ferguson era, but that isn’t staying much.

And so, Mourinho has to cling on to his successes from the past, ones not from his time at Man United. “Respect,” Mourinho bellowed in his post-match conference following the defeat to Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the season, demanding that the press and reporters show him gratitude following his three Premier League titles. But those titles did not come with Man United, they came with Chelsea many moons ago, and what club will want to hire a once-top manager who has failed to grow and evolve?

The fact that Man United had just six shots compared to Liverpool’s 36 during their 3-1 loss to Anfield in mid-December says it all. Man United fans are keen for a manager who plays fluid, high-tempo attacking football – something that they only saw from the home team at Merseyside.

Ten changes for Mourinho’s side meant fielding five centre-backs and little to no strategy on how to actually score a goal. For too long it has been Mourinho’s plan of action to sit back and defend deep, and it makes for ugly football. Naturally, Man United fans are tired.

A report in The Times revealed that fans were unhappy with the style of Mourinho’s play, and that their dissatisfaction was a key factor in the Portuguese manager’s dismissal. It’s not just Mourinho’s on-pitch tactics that have affected the club and its fans so harshly. His negative attitude – seen from his ever-deepening frown from the sidelines that’s visible from Mars or the way his post-match conferences seem to emulate the behaviourisms of grumpy cat – clearly spreads and affects his players, fans and results. Mourinho rarely gives positive feedback following a match, whatever the result, and rarely gives fans reason to feel motivated or optimistic that they can even do better. Instead, he demoralises them even further, setting the bar so low for himself so that he decreases the minimum of what is expected of him. 

For all of Mourinho’s reluctance in his youth players, one youngster that he did have an odd amount of faith in was Scott McTominay. The 22-year-old has been named in the starting XI for six Premier League games this season, as well as being named in the Champions League squad on two occasions.

There is the issue of him turning to the Scotland midfielder merely to spite Pogba, but his faith was there – and McTominay will surely drop back down in the pecking order depending on the next manager. McTominay’s rise under Mourinho has even been said to have perplexed other Scotland internationals.

Marouane Fellaini is another player in whom Mourinho has shown plenty of faith. The Belgium international is a player that might not get the chances at other top clubs, but the Portuguese boss was a huge fan of the tall and lanky midfielder. He, like McTominay, will likely not be getting as much of a chance in the first-team following Mourinho’s dismissal.

The Chile international has endured a torrid time at Old Trafford following a high-profile move from Arsenal, where he had a reputation for being one of the Premier League’s deadliest forwards. 

It remains to be seen whether or not Mourinho purchased Sanchez merely to spite his foe Guardiola, who had been keen on signing him for Manchester City, but the Chile forward has been a poor imitation of the player that he was at the Emirates. 

Before picking up a muscle injury that is set to keep him out until the New Year, the 30-year-old scored just one Premier League goal for Man United this season and has shown little to no sign of rediscovering the devastating form he showed in north London. Despite currently being the highest-paid Premier League player – on a salary of £390,000 per week – Sanchez has been a disappointment, with only four goals scored since January 2018. 

Sanchez had been demoted to the sidelines following the resurgence of Martial up front for the Red Devils and has been out of favour with the side, and talk of him being offloaded in the January transfer window has floated around. Should he decide to stay at Old Trafford, however, he will be given a fresh chance under a new manager following full recovery from his injury after his nightmare start in Manchester under Mourinho.

Rival supporters won’t be the only ones mourning the loss of Mourinho at Man United. The Lowry Hotel in Manchester, which had become Mourinho’s semi-permanent residence following his reluctance to live in a mansion by himself as his family continues to reside in London, is set to lose out on a substantial portion of its finances following news of the Portuguese boss’s departure.

The luxury apartment residence boasts rooms worth up to £600 per night, and Mourinho had been living there since 2016. So, that’s roughly 895 nights that he would have booked out at the Lowry Hotel, which totals up to the monstrous bill of £537,000 – not including additional costs.

Refusing to take up permanent accommodation at a new job doesn’t exactly indicate confidence in your prospects, however, with questions being raised about whether or not Mourinho saw his Man United job as a long-term or short-term prospect in the first place. But you shouldn’t feel too bad for him, considering the insane £24m severance package he will be given by the Red Devils – which makes David Moyes and Louis van Gaal’s £5m payouts look like peanuts.

Mourinho’s departure means that more Man United players will be likely to sign long-term deals instead of one-year extensions.

The Red Devils were forced to take up the one-year options in David de Gea and Martial’s contracts as they were unwilling to commit their futures to Old Trafford for a more substantial amount of time.

Mourinho has a habit of publicly shaming or going to war with players he has personal issues with, such as the likes of Antonio Valencia and Martial, and there are just a handful of players he has not explicitly demoralised: Ashley Young, Nemanja Matic, Marouane Fellaini and Romelu Lukaku to name a few. Mourinho continued to get into public fisticuffs with Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard through the press, and it’s not a wonder why more Man United players didn’t want to commit to long-term deals with the club as long as Mourinho was in charge.

Chris Smalling did pen a new deal in mid-December that will keep him at the club through to 2020, as one of the few players that Mourinho has backed.

The final nail in the coffin for Mourinho’s time at Man United was the loss to Liverpool in the Premier League, which left them 19 points behind their table-topping rivals and 11 points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea.

Only Man City and Liverpool seem to be worthy title challengers as they sit neck and neck atop the table with the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal all involved in a three-way race for the final two Champions League spots. Man United have been marooned helplessly in sixth position, not looking like much of a challenger for anything this season. Mourinho had admitted after the loss at Anfield that a top-four finish would be a “miracle”, let alone challenging for the league title – which is a lost hope.

That could all immediately change, however, following the appointment of a new manager. The “big five” in the Premier League all seemed to be pretty content with Man United’s troubles this season, giving them a bit of breathing room as they compete for a Champions League spot and the league title.

It’s always interesting to see what a new manager can do at a club. Even the simple act of dismissing of the negative energy that surrounded Mourinho will be something welcomed by the players at the club, who will be refreshed, revitalised and re-energised under a new boss – and all the more eager to deliver better results. There is no guarantee that whoever succeeds Mourinho will do better than him at his job, but the sole act of getting someone new may be enough to restore balance and faith in the squad – and the rest of the Premier League “big five” have to be on their toes.

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