In Depth

Man Utd deny Zidane link as Mourinho faces familiar crisis

It’s the United boss’s third season, he’s unhappy about signings and there are rumours of unrest... so what happens next?

Manchester United have denied rumours linking Zinedine Zidane with the manager’s hotseat at Old Trafford as the whispering campaign against Jose Mourinho gathers pace.

United have endured a difficult summer, with Mourinho appearing irritable and apparently at loggerheads with chief executive Ed Woodward over signings.

Those problems have manifested themselves on the pitch. United slumped to an embarrassing 3-2 defeat to Brighton on Sunday, which only added to the pressure on the manager.

But the club have dismissed speculation that former Real Madrid boss Zidane was being lined up to replace Mourinho, insisting “there is no job available” for the Frenchman.

“United are refusing to panic after just one defeat. However, Mourinho’s position is coming under even more scrutiny after his team’s capitulation at the Amex Stadium on Sunday when they conceded three goals before half-time,” says the Daily Mail.

What’s the problem with United?

The performance has raised questions about the style of play the United manager has instilled in his team, says Tom Clarke in The Times.

“Why, when 3-1 down against Brighton, did Mourinho’s side manage only four attempts on goal before Paul Pogba’s penalty? And why are this United team becoming renowned for being easily shut out by sides lower down the table?”

United have players capable of creating chances, but the manager needs to find a way to unlock their potential, he says.

There are also issues at the back. Mourinho has claimed that he needs backing in the transfer market to shore up the defence, but as plenty of pundits have pointed out, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof – who performed so poorly on Sunday – were both bought by Mourinho at a combined cost of £56m.

Does Mourinho need more money?

Few have any sympathy with Mourinho’s pleas for more support during the transfer window.

“Mourinho cannot argue he has not been backed in the market,” says Jamie Jackson in The Guardian.

The United boss has spent £364.3m on ten frontline players over the past five transfer windows and inherited a squad containing players of real quality when he arrived at the club, says Jackson.

“By now should Mourinho have created a genuine title-challenging unit and not one that can... go down in powder-puff style at Brighton? The answer is surely yes,” he adds.

And the fact that the manager’s future is being discussed shows that there is a genuine “sense of drift” at Old Trafford.

A gathering crisis

There is also a sense of deja vu about Mourinho’s current demeanour, says Jason Burt of the Daily Telegraph.

“Much has understandably been made of Mourinho’s ‘third-season syndrome’ – which usually follows a second season of winning the league title at a club – but what is just as remarkable is the familiarity of the pattern that leads to him leaving,” he says.

The key factors are disputes over signings and rumours of dressing room unrest, combined with a negative energy that overwhelms the club.

It all makes next week’s game against Spurs critical, says Burt.

“Lose that and the tension will rise, the storm clouds will thicken, the battle lines will be drawn and United will be enveloped in a sense of gathering crisis even this ridiculously early into a season.”

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