Manchester United ’s history for sacking managers in the post- Sir Alex Ferguson era is likely to give Jose Mourinho a lifeline if they suffer a third successive defeat at Burnley on Sunday.
Some United players aren’t sure if Mourinho will make it to Christmas, mindful what happened in the final months at Chelsea when he was sacked on December 17.
The last time United lost three consecutive Premier League matches was December 2015, when Louis van Gaal presided over a dismal December which included being knocked out at the Champions League group stage in Wolfsburg.
Mourinho suffered three straight losses in September 2016 but a Europa League reverse at Feyenoord was sandwiched between setbacks against Manchester City and Watford.
Ed Woodward, the United executive vice-chairman, was widely expected to dismiss van Gaal midway through his final campaign but resisted since United had a home fixture with Chelsea two days later. After the 2-0 surrender at Stoke on Boxing Day, United were sixth and behind Crystal Palace but only three points off a Champions League qualifying spot. Woodward attended a high-profile meeting in London that was commercial-related and van Gaal’s future was not discussed report the MEN .
Despite five more months of mediocrity, United were still in contention with City to finish fourth on the final day in a freakish Premier League season that saw Leicester crowned champions. City clinched the point they needed at Swansea to finish above their neighbours.
Van Gaal was given a stay of execution only because he had guided United to their first cup final since Ferguson had retired. By the time of the Wembley encounter with Crystal Palace, Woodward had already decided to sack the Dutchman and appoint Mourinho, having been in dialogue with the Portuguese’s agent Jorge Mendes for more than four months.
David Moyes was jettisoned more immediately since United were ejected from the Champions League by Bayern Munich 11 days before their 2-0 defeat at Everton , which ended their fading hopes of securing a Champions League qualifying berth. Woodward decided to discharge Moyes the next day but, since it was Easter Monday, his removal was not confirmed until the Tuesday.
United returned to the Champions League under Mourinho via their Europa League triumph last year and comfortably qualified through a second-place finish last term. Unless results worsen, unrest at the club becomes untenable or Zinedine Zidane considers an alternative club, Woodward is expected to sweat it out with Mourinho as long as Champions League qualification is still possible. Mourinho is understood to retain the board’s backing and a source said they were not interested in Zidane.
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There is also currently no obvious eminent European club to compete with United for Zidane. Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich appointed Thomas Tuchel and Niko Kovac in the summer, Maurizio Sarri replaced Antonio Conte at Juventus, Unai Emery took over at Arsenal , while Mauricio Pochettino, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola signed new contracts with Tottenham , Liverpool and Manchester City respectively. Zidane’s former club, Juventus, agreed a new deal with Massimiliano Allegri last year that runs until 2020.
Woodward sought reassurances from Mendes over Mourinho as he allowed van Gaal to lead United to the FA Cup final two-and-a-half years ago. Woodward telephoned Mendes after United’s embarrassing Europa League performance at Midtjylland in February and Mourinho rejected managerial offers from Chinese Super League clubs and Serie A side Roma as he held out for the United post. United also saw off competition from PSG, who eventually replaced Laurent Blanc with Emery.
Van Gaal, who left two years into a three-year contract, received a pay-off of £5m while Moyes and his coaching staff were paid a total of £5.2m in 2014. Mourinho signed improved terms in January to extend his United contract until 2020 and the club has the option of an additional year, so he would likely be entitled to a larger whack than his predecessors.
Woodward would be the kingmaker again, having previously settled on van Gaal and Mourinho.