Mourinho exit a long time coming
After decades of being the biggest fish in the English soccer pond, United had just about come to terms with the fact that bottomless new funding had enabled Chelsea and then Manchester City to displace them in terms of spending power and trophy accumulation.
But when Liverpool, in whose shadow United laboured for so long before Alex Ferguson finally "knocked them off their perch", brushed them aside on Sunday like the mediocre mid-table team they have become, it was the end of the line for the Portuguese coach.
"Manchester United announces that manager Jose Mourinho has left the club with immediate effect," the 20-times English title winners said in a brief statement on Tuesday.
That followed Sunday's defeat that left them 19 points behind Juergen Klopp's Liverpool side in sixth place and 11 points off the Champions League places. The 29 goals they have conceded is their worst at this stage of a season for 56 years.
For the current crop of United fans and officials who gorged on success during Alex Ferguson's 26-year reign that is just not acceptable.
Mourinho will point to the fact that after replacing Dutchman Louis van Gaal in May 2016 he won the Europa League and the League Cup in his first season, before guiding United to second place and a place in the FA Cup final, where they were beaten by Chelsea, in his second.
His 58.33 per cent win record is considerably better than that of David Moyes (52.94 per cent) and Van Gaal (52.43 per cent) and only marginally behind Ferguson's 59.67.
But those figures mask the fact that he has been poor against the other top-six teams, while his tactical approach has alienated just about everyone at the club.
With every passing defeat he found new ways to blame the players while reminding his critics of his previous successes at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
If he had failed while trying to win with United's customary panache he may have survived a little longer.
But while City, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur have been thrilling fans with their swashbuckling approach, Mourinho has become the arch-proponent of "parking the bus" -- a phrase he introduced to English football's lexicon when complaining about teams packing their defence to foil his exciting Chelsea team. His fallout with STG90 million pounds ($158.5 million) French midfielder Paul Pogba summed up his failure.
Good enough to inspire France to win the World Cup this summer, Pogba has spent the past two weeks sitting on the bench, effectively punished for daring to suggest the team should be more attacking and play like the Wolverhampton Wanderers team who drew 1-1 at Old Trafford.
Instead Mourinho has opted for the sturdier qualities of the likes of Nemanja Matic and Marouane Fellaini. Mourinho, bucking the trend of "ultimate responsibility" has been ever-more critical of his players, accusing them of lacking technical expertise, mental fortitude and physical resilience.
The smiling, charming Mourinho who arrived at Chelsea declaring himself "a special one" 14 years ago, has long been replaced by a surly, haggered-looking operator, dismissive of any and all questioning of his personal responsibility. Mourinho has repeatedly said he cannot compete with the spending power of City and Liverpool, ignoring the fact that he has signed STG400 million of talent over the past two years.
United, who were drawn against Paris St Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League on Monday, have said they will appoint a caretaker manager within the next 48 hours while they presumably try to earn time to prize a big-name manager away from his current role.
Zinedine Zidane, Mauricio Pochettino and Antonio Conte are among the early bookmakers' favourites to take over.
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