Manchester United’s summer transfer window can only be described as disappointing. Both Fred and Diogo Dalot are good signings, but there are still obvious gaps in the squad. Earlier this summer rumours circulated of the club pursuing names such as Toby Alderweireld, Alex Sandro, and Gareth Bale. These moves have not materialised, and this is concerning for a club looking to topple Pep Guardiola’s unstoppable Manchester City side. After stumbling to second place in the league in the latter half of the season, all signs point to Mourinho third season syndrome kicking in during 2018-19.
Mourinho: Third Season Syndrome
Stumbling to Second Place
After playing cohesive football up until January, United found themselves stumbling to second place through the remainder of the campaign. The signing of Alexis Sanchez in January in particular heavily disrupted United’s attack. Sanchez replaced Anthony Martial in the starting line-up. The Frenchman was shoved aside for the Chilean despite contributing three goals and one assist in the four games prior to Sanchez’s arrival. This was a pivotal moment in the season. Since that moment Sanchez’s poor form in a United shirt stifled the Red Devils’ attack.
Sanchez underperformed in his first half season under Mourinho as United limped to second place. This was despite Liverpool and Tottenham breathing down their neck. This second-place finish was United’s highest league finish since 2013. This is a commendable achievement, but stumbling in the latter half of the season is history repeating itself for Mourinho
In 2014-15, Chelsea stumbled over the line in the second half of the season. They grinded out results from January onwards and eventually captured the title. Even though United didn’t win the league, the parallels are obvious. It makes it all the more concerning given what happened in the following season at Chelsea.
In 2015-16, Mourinho was sacked in December with Chelsea in 16th place. The club would eventually finish the season in 10th. Mourinho created a toxic environment. He pointed fingers, deflected blame, and even accused his players of “betraying” his work in his final game at the club.
Mourinho’s relationship with the board first appeared strained when he openly stated how they simply weren’t as powerful as Manchester City. Mourinho told reporters that United’s power in the transfer market was “not enough” to compete with their City rivals.
United have fallen further behind this summer. Just this week, The Citizens confirmed the signing of Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City for a reported £60 million. Mahrez is a brilliant player and City have added another stellar name to an already potent attack.
Next season, City’s right-wingers will be Mahrez and Raheem Sterling. In contrast, United will choose from Jesse Lingard or Juan Mata to play that role. This gulf in quality is huge. The fact that United didn’t try to sign Mahrez or another right winger speaks volumes about the power of each club in the transfer market.
Mourinho’s frustration with the board was evident last summer. The United hierarchy refused to pay what was necessary to sign Ivan Perisic. It is clear once again that Mourinho is not being backed in the transfer market. United have still not signed Toby Alderweireld from Tottenham Hotspur. This is despite reports that Mourinho has identified the Belgian as a key addition to bolster his defence.
Similar problems with the board were seen in the summer of 2015 when Mourinho was not backed in the transfer market by Chelsea’s board. The club signed relative unknowns Papy Djilobodji and Abdul Baba Rahman instead of a higher calibre of player that Mourinho desired. The club actually had two bids for PSG defender Marquinhos rejected on deadline day in what was surely an attempted panic buy.
With only two players signed so far this summer, Mourinho third season syndrome could be set to kick in this August.
Relationship With The Players
By the end of his last stint at Chelsea, Mourinho’s relationship with his players was non-existent.
As previously mentioned, he openly accused his players of “betraying” his work in his final game as manager. He substituted Nemanja Matic after already bringing him on in a loss to Southampton at Stamford Bridge. Matic later revealed in an interview a year later that he felt “terrible” as it happened. Already, similar cracks are beginning to emerge at United.
Mourinho has frequently questioned Luke Shaw’s commitment. At first, this was written off as typical Mourinho hazing, but towards the of last season, public criticism of Shaw by Mourinho left many United players “stunned” by their manager.
This could be the beginning of Mourinho completely alienating all his players. We have seen similar things before during his spells at Real Madrid and Chelsea. By the time he left these clubs both the players and the board could not wait to see the back of him. If he wants to leave a lasting legacy at United, it would be wise not to ruin his relationship with his players, again.
All the signs point to Mourinho third season syndrome arriving at Old Trafford in 2018-19. The lack of activity in the transfer market, openly questioning the ability of the board, and attacking his own players have all resulted in Mourinho getting sacked before. And it looks likely this will happen again. If the Portuguese veteran doesn’t change his ways, he may be leaving Old Trafford sooner than he expected.