Jose Mourinho has never spent more than three full seasons at a club. That, as much as anything else, is a main source behind recent reports that the Manchester United manager could be a few months away from resigning.
But it’s not the only one. It’s not the only reason there is reportedly “growing concern” at the club that Mourinho could bolt at the end of his second season. “Jose seems to be having third-season syndrome a year early with us,” the Daily Mail quoted a source as saying.
Mourinho called the reports “garbage” on Thursday. But there are enough dots to connect. There’s the 15-point gap between United and Premier League-leading Manchester City. There are Mourinho’s disgruntled comments at news conferences. There is his criticism of United legend Paul Scholes. There are his complaints about United’s insufficient spending, and reports that they represent a deeper frustration with the club’s board and CEO Ed Woodward.
There is also the fact that Mourinho has never moved out of a luxury Manchester hotel. He continues to reside in a glamorous Riverside Suite at the five-star Lowry. His wife, Matilde, lives back in London, and Jose is reportedly spending less time than ever in Manchester. According to the Daily Mail, he has become “increasingly detached.”
Mourinho answered the hotel question on Thursday. “I am very lazy,” he said. “I am living in an apartment inside of a hotel where I have all the comfort, the support, where I have everything I want, like I am living in a house.
“So if [fans] are worried about me being comfortable, happy and supported, I really am. That’s the way I feel very comfortable. If they want me in some house that I don’t like, in some place I don’t like, lonely from my assistants, if they want that, I would be a sad guy. And a sad guy doesn’t work well.”
It’s not exactly a convincing explanation, and surely won’t quell speculation. Especially when the context is Mourinho’s history.
Mourinho has never made it more than a year into a second contract. His current £12 million-per-year deal doesn’t expire until 2019, but neither he nor the club would reasonably take it into its final year without clarity beyond it. There is an option that could stretch it to 2020, but the two sides have reportedly discussed a proper extension. They haven’t yet come to an agreement.
Mourinho got extensions prior to his third seasons at Chelsea and Real Madrid out of necessity. He had won league titles in year two. In fact, he has never failed to win a league title in year two. Barring a miracle, he’s on course to fail for the first time this spring.
Another way of looking at his history is that he has never lasted beyond his second title-less season. What does that say about how long he has left in Manchester?
All of this remains nothing more than speculation, and Mourinho has swatted it away. “If you want to speak about some news, I say garbage,” he said of the reports. “I don’t find a better word to define the talk. If you want to ask me directly, which I suppose you want, if I see myself next season in Manchester United, I say I see myself [here].
“As I told when I arrived, I’m going to leave when the club wants me to leave, because I have no intention to leave at all. My intention is to stay, and to work and to improve and to bring the club to where the club belongs and I want to stay. And I don’t see any reason not to stay.”
But he has never been in this position before. He has never seen out a project, and that’s what this is. City, in almost every sense, is ahead of United. In the table, on the field and off it. The Red Devils are recovering from multiple years of dysfunction. Their recovery is a process.
Success at Manchester United, therefore, is going to require significant time, something Mourinho has never needed, had, nor seemingly craved. First, United has to decided whether it wants to give him that time. Then Mourinho has to decide whether he’s willing to take it. And if he is, it wouldn’t be too late to do a little house-hunting.
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