5 December 2019
José Mourinho did not endear himself to United Manchester fans with his defensive tactics and preference for seasoned players. Photo: Reuters
José Mourinho did not endear himself to United Manchester fans with his defensive tactics and preference for seasoned players. Photo: Reuters

Why Manchester United fans hated Mourinho so much

Manchester United fans got a wonderful Christmas gift. The football club sacked manager José Mourinho with immediate effect on Tuesday morning. More than 90 percent of United fans thought Mourinho should leave the club, according to a poll on United fansite Red Cafe. 

The main reason why fans hated Mourinho so much was his defensive tactics. United is known for playing entertaining football and carrying out offensive strategies, even though that might compromise its chances of winning a game. 

However, after Mourinho took over the helm in 2016, the club switched to playing defensive. His strategy bored United fans to death. 

Another thing, United has a tradition of hiring young players such as David Beckham and Ryan Giggs when they were still nobodies. 

There were those who criticized United for this, saying it could hurt the club’s performance: “You can’t win anything with kids.” 

But former manager Alexander Ferguson insisted on grooming young players in whom he saw big potential. And for United fans, there is nothing more satisfactory than seeing a young kid rise to become a football star. 

In contrast, Mourinho only hired seasoned players above 30; he had no patience for young players who deliver unstable performance. 

From time to time, he would use mediocre old players and put popular young players like Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba on the bench. 

After more than two years in the club, Mourinho still showed no sign of changing his old school defensive tactics. 

Meanwhile, coaches of such clubs as Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City all have introduced offensive tactics to make football more entertaining. 

Indeed, the question is, how was Mourinho able to keep his job for so long?  

The answer is the owner of the club cared more about short-term financial performance.  

The Glazer family of the United States acquired the club in 2005 through leveraged buyout, with the primary goal of boosting its earnings and hopefully reselling it at a good price. 

As long as the team can secure a spot among the top four teams in the lucrative UEFA Champions League, the club will get handsome rewards in the form of TV broadcasting rights. Mourinho was able to deliver that. 

The New York-listed United saw its revenue soar to US$760 million last year from US$520 million in 2015, while its earnings reached US$49.7 million from a loss. 

However, the club’s performance has turned for the worse recently. It ranks No. 6 in the UEFA Champions League in the current season. 

United’s lackluster performance and its boring plays could eventually affect ticket sales and advertising income, undermining its long-term financial prospects. 

And that is perhaps why the Glazer family decided to give the walking papers to Mourinho.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 19 

Translation by Julie Zhu 

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist