Manchester United loses to West Ham, and Jose Mourinho really has to go

Jose Mourinho has to go.

He had to go two months ago, when he was already moaning in Michigan; when the writing was on the wall. He had to go last month, after losses to Brighton and Tottenham. He had to go four days ago after a cup loss to Derby; three days ago, when his supposed quarrel with Paul Pogba reignited; yesterday, with his general stench becoming more ineradicable by the hour; and now.

Mourinho has to go, surely now, after a 3-1 loss to West Ham on Saturday; after United’s ninth, 10th and a 11th dropped points of the young Premier League season; after a third dreadful result in eight days.

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Club CEO Ed Woodward watched on from a London Stadium luxury box. And every moment he spent sitting on his hands was a moment for the Red Devils to float further and further adrift of where Mourinho’s appointment two-and-a-half years ago was supposed to take them.

Jose Mourinho looked frustrated and helpless as Manchester United struggled at West Ham. But he bears as much blame as anybody. (Getty)
Jose Mourinho looked frustrated and helpless as Manchester United struggled at West Ham. But he bears as much blame as anybody. (Getty)

United started flat at West Ham and never recovered

A trip to West Ham, since the club’s Olympic Stadium move in 2016, has been one of the easiest away fixtures in the Premier League. The atmosphere is more often toxic than daunting. Bournemouth and Wolves have already won there this season. A United victory was a fair expectation.

And yet the visitors came out flat. Lethargic. Uninterested. Almost as if they had no motivation to play for a manager who has constantly, implicitly and explicitly, blamed them for his own shortcomings.

West Ham was in control from kickoff. Midfielders had time and space to dictate play. Early on, United was stuck in its own defensive half. And it was punished by Felipe Anderson inside five minutes. Pablo Zabaleta snuck in behind United’s defense down the right. His low cross was met by Anderson with a back-flick for the Brazilian’s first Premier League goal.

Andriy Yarmolenko doubled the Hammers’ lead before halftime – though the tally was eventually ruled a Victor Lindelof own goal.

United’s attempts to get back in the game were counterbalanced by West Ham’s threat on the counter. Both sides missed chances. Marcus Rashford converted one to chop the deficit in half …

But three minutes later, sloppy defending let Marko Arnautovic walk in on David De Gea, unimpeded. The Austrian finished. The Red Devils were finished. And Mourinho must be, too.

Why Mourinho must go

Mourinho’s team was unlucky Saturday. It really was. Zabaleta was offside in the buildup to West Ham’s first. The home side’s second required a massive deflection. Mourinho, on cue, blamed misfortune, the referee, his assistant and the lack of VAR.

But the criticism of the Red Devils last season, despite their second-place finish, was that Mourinho’s style left them susceptible to the thinnest slices of poor luck. The concern is now being vindicated. A team that takes the game to West Ham needn’t worry about deflections or marginal refereeing decisions. United does.

Its players don’t want to play this way. Pogba wants to “attack, attack, attack.” The personnel is in place to do so. Mourinho is holding it back more than ever. He is waffling between different tactical systems, none of which are shrewd enough nor seasoned enough to break United’s malaise.

The results are the olés ringing around the London Stadium, and the United fans filing out of it several minutes shy of 90:00. They’re Lindelof stalking down the tunnel after being sacrificed on 56 minutes, without even any acknowledgement for his boss; Pogba, subbed on 70 minutes, with a snood pulled over his mouth. They’re this screenshot:

(Screenshot: NBC Sports Network)
(Screenshot: NBC Sports Network)

At this point, Mourinho’s tactical deficiencies are less relevant than his man-management ones. Armchair psychology can be dangerous. But if Saturday was any indication, he has lost the dressing room. If various reports over the past two months are to believed, he has long since lost it. He has lost control of any semblance of upward trajectory.

And United, until Woodward pulls out his axe, is merely wasting days and weeks, futilely attempting to salvage the unsalvageable.

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Henry Bushnell is a features writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

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