MANCHESTER, England — Manchester United has parted ways with its manager, José Mourinho, two days after a defeat to its rival Liverpool compounded the club’s worst-ever start to a Premier League season.
The club confirmed Mourinho’s departure, halfway through his third year at Old Trafford, in a brief statement on its website on Tuesday morning. United thanked the Portuguese manager for his work and wished him “success in the future” in announcing that he had left the club, three years to the week since Chelsea fired him for a second time.
Mourinho has worked at some of the world’s top soccer clubs — in addition to Chelsea, he has coached at Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Porto — and had long coveted the chance to work at United. He described his appointment in the summer of 2016 as a “special honor.”
United has struggled to find a replacement for Alex Ferguson since his departure in 2013, and Ed Woodward, the club’s executive vice chairman, boasted at the time of Mourinho’s hiring that he was “quite simply, the best manager in the world today.”
Throughout his time in Manchester, however, Mourinho had struggled to justify that reputation. Though his first season ended with two trophies — the Europa League and the Carabao Cup — and his second brought a second-place finish in the Premier League, his reign was a turbulent one.
He consistently expressed his dissatisfaction with the club’s recruitment policy, despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars on playing talent, and his relationship with his players had grown increasingly sour over the course of the past 18 months.
Paul Pogba, the most expensive player in English soccer history, proved a particular issue. Mourinho has oscillated between encouraging the midfielder, who led France to the World Cup over the summer, and criticizing him in public. He offered him the club captaincy and then ostentatiously stripped him of it. As Mourinho noted in an email to United’s executives this season, none of his approaches seemed to bear fruit.
Pogba was not, however, the only member of the squad to lose faith in his manager. Mourinho has struggled to find common ground with the likes of the defender Luke Shaw and the forward Anthony Martial, too, bringing him into yet more direct conflict with his direct superiors, who regard United’s young players as valuable assets.
Mourinho was happy to allow Martial to leave, but in a sign of the tensions between the club and its manager, United announced that it was extending the forward’s contract for another year on the same day that it cut ties with Mourinho.
As the atmosphere worsened, so did results. United has progressed to the final 16 of the Champions League — where Paris Saint-Germain, with Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, lies in wait — but has collected just 26 points in the Premier League.
The club has been widely condemned as lacking imagination and attacking intent; it has won only as many games as Bournemouth and has a worse goal difference than Everton.
Defeat at Anfield on Sunday left Mourinho’s team 19 points behind Liverpool, the Premier League leader, and, crucially, 11 points away from fourth place and the final slot in next season’s Champions League.
In recent years, United had waited until Champions League qualification was mathematically impossible before dismissing an underperforming manager.
This time, it has acted while hope still lingers. The club said it would appoint a “caretaker” manager for the remainder of the campaign, before making a long-term appointment in the summer. Mourinho’s future is far less certain.
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