It's been a tough few months for Manchester United and Jose Mourinho, with the club underperforming both on the pitch and off it. The Red Devils endured a difficult summer which saw them fail to land a number of major transfer targets, much to the dismay of the 55 year-old who hasn't been afraid to signal his discontent at the situation.
His feud with CEO Ed Woodward has made plenty of headlines and it looks like it's followed his players onto the pitch, with them delivering two uninspiring performances in the Premier League so far. They managed to get three points on the board in their opener against Leicester, but Sunday's defeat to Brighton has raised some serious questions surrounding the mentality and attitude of the United players - along with Mourinho.
He's never lasted longer than 3 seasons at any club during his managerial career and it looks like the wheels could be starting to fall off at Old Trafford. We all saw how his tenure at Chelsea ended and United fans will be getting worried that the same could be about to happen at their club, so just how big are the problems on the red side of Manchester at the moment?
Lack of trust & player unrest
Jose Mourinho wasn't afraid to tell the worlds media during Manchester United's tour of the United States about their need for re-enforcements. Defence was his main focus and ultimately he failed to land any of the big name centre-backs that he reportedly asked Ed Woodward for. Harry Maguire, Toby Alderweireld, Diego Godin and Yerry Mina were all rumoured targets & their inability to sign anyone was apparent on Sunday when they were beaten 3-2 by Brighton at the AMEX Stadium. Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof started in the heart of defence for the Red Devils and the pair were given a torrid time by 34 year-old Glenn Murray and Pascal Gross. Constantly caught out of position and lacking composure on the ball, the duo looked incredibly shaky and a far cry from the commanding centre-backs that we've seen in dominant Mourinho teams of old. He prides himself on a strong backline and despite being backed up by the best goalkeeper in the world, it's incredibly evident that he doesn't trust them.
In the past Mourinho has been quite vocal in criticising certain members of his team, but the defeat to the Seagulls prompted a slightly different response when he spoke to Sky Sports:
"The press and pundits are usually very critical of me when I go in that direction, so please don't ask me to go in this direction, because it's not good for me. So I will be very, very happy to analyse my players' performances when they are very good. It is a great thing for me to come in front of the camera and say player A, B, C was fantastic. It's amazing for me. When I cannot do that, don't push me to the other side, because I don't go to the other side."
This isn't what the players want to hear after an embarrassing defeat and they haven't really backed him up either, with captain for the afternoon Paul Pogba also making headlines. He gave the ball away on 27 occasions over the course of the 90 minutes and really struggled to produce the level of performance that we've come to expect from him - despite netting a late penalty. Post match he came out and claimed that Brighton were "more hungrier than us" and "I put myself first, my attitude wasn't right enough" - words that won't encourage United supporters, especially considering he's supposed to be their talisman.
Could we see another 15/16 Chelsea?
Mourinho arrived at Old Trafford back in 2016 off the back of a terrible title defence with Chelsea. Unrest behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge again revolving around the clubs transfer policy resulted in Mourinho's summer shopping being limited, again leading to poor performances on the pitch. He was sacked by December and Chelsea ultimately went on to finish in 10th, the lowest position they've finished since 1996.
Comparisons are already being made to that side this year and it's easy to see why. United didn't win any major silverware last term but the transfer situation has really left a bitter taste in the mouth for Mourinho, who clearly isn't happy with his squad. His relationship with the clubs hierarchy (mainly Ed Woodward) is the most strained it's been during his 2 years at the club and their reluctance to back him in the window really speaks volumes.
Manchester United are a club that are known for bringing through young players and playing exciting football, the current set-up is very much the opposite. Mourinho signed Alexis Sanchez on a mega contract back in January and also targeted the likes of Alderweireld and Ivan Perisic this summer, all three of which are touching 30. He's also alienated Anthony Martial, a young player who has lost his way slightly but is clearly extremely talented, who now wants out and will be on plenty of clubs shopping lists. Along with that the playing style of Mourinho's United has drawn criticism from the clubs supporters, where despite possessing some fantastic forwards they just struggle to deliver the attacking performances that the fans expect to see at Old Trafford.
What happens next is going to be very interesting but the 55 year-old has no choice but to work with what he's got following the early closure of the transfer window. Their defeat on Sunday was dominated by the performance of his centre-backs, the position he wanted to strengthen during the summer. But ironically it was two Mourinho signings (Lindelof and Bailly) who played there and the pair delivered two massively below par performances - perhaps another reason why the board weren't willing to spend the money to secure his primary targets?
Should Manchester United fans be panicking?
Yes and no. Matters off the pitch clearly aren't helping things and the vibes you get from Mourinho at the moment are that it's very much him versus the world. When he first arrived in England he called himself 'The Special One', on his return to Chelsea he claimed he was 'The Happy One', but now he looks like The Miserable One. He doesn't emit any positivity or confidence in front of the cameras and whilst that could be different behind the scenes at Carrington, his public image and reputation is probably the lowest it's been since he came to the Premier League back in 2004.
But us being just 2 games into the Premier League season there's plenty of potential for things to improve but he knows their next fixture could have big implications. They face their toughest test of the campaign so far against Tottenham at Old Trafford next Monday and a defeat would give their top 4 rivals a huge psychological advantage at such an early stage of the campaign - it's a game they simply cannot lose.
His struggles have now made him 4/1 favourite with SkyBet to be the next manager to leave their position in the Premier League, which tells you all you need to know about how things are in Manchester at the moment.
It's going to be interesting to see how this one plays out and whether he can overcome third season syndrome - but one thing for sure is that his side need to win and deliver a good performance against a very good Spurs side next week or the pressure will intensify to huge levels.